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Semantic Integration of Verbal Information into a Visual Memory



A total of 1,242 subjects, in five experiments plus a pilot study, saw a series of slides depicting a single auto-pedestrian accident. The purpose of these experiments was to investigate how information supplied after an event influences a witness's memory for that event. Subjects were exposed to either consistent, misleading, or irrelevant information after the accident event. Misleading information produced less accurate responding on both a yes-no and a two-alternative forced-choice recognition test. Further, misleading information had a larger impact if introduced just prior to a final test rather than immediately after the initial event. The effects of misleading information cannot be accounted for by a simple demand-characteristics explanation. Overall, the results suggest that information to which a witness is exposed after an event, whether that information is consistent or misleading, is integrated into the witness's memory of the event.