Reinforced self-affirmation and reinforced failure reduce susceptibility to misinformation

Malwina Szpitalak, Karolina Dukała, Romuald Polczyk


The main aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of reinforced self-affirmation and reinforced failure on the memory misinformation effect. The misinformation effect consists in the witness including some incorrect details into their testimony, stemming from sources other than the original event. In the reinforced self-affirmation procedure, participants first recall their greatest achievements in life and are afterwards given a memory task with positive feedback about their performance on it. In a series of previous experiments, reinforced self-affirmation proved to reduce vulnerability to misinformation. The same result was obtained in the present study. Reinforced failure is a procedure not studied before, consisting in the participants recalling their greatest failures in life, connected with negative feedback about performance on a memory task. It was hypothesized that reinforced failure would increase vulnerability to misinformation. The results pointed to the opposite tendency – participants in the reinforced failure group performed better than those in the misled control group. The reduction in susceptibility to misinformation was greater in the reinforced self-affirmation group than in the reinforced failure one. The results are discussed in terms of the possibility of constructing a method of immunizing people to the misinformation effect available in practice for a wide community of professionals dealing with interrogations.


misinformation effect; reinforced self-affirmation; reinforced failure; eyewitness testimony; memory

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