Credibility of repeated statements: Memory for trivia

Article · January 1979with1,650 Reads
Previous research has shown that repeated statements are rated as more true than new ones. Experiment 1 found that the repetition effect depends on sub-jects' detection of the fact that a statement is repeated; that is, statements that are judged to be repeated are rated as truer than statements judged to be new, regardless of the actual status of the statements. Experiment 2 deter-mined that repeated statements increment in credibility even if subjects are informed that they are repeated. It was further determined that statements that contradict early ones are rated as relatively true if misclassified as repetitions but that statements judged to be changed are rated as relatively false. That is, subjects are predisposed to believe statements that seem to reaffirm existing knowledge and to disbelieve statements that contradict exist-ing knowledge. Although much conventional wisdom fails to survive direct experimental tests, some widely held views fare quite well. One com-mon opinion is the rather cynical belief that if statements are made again and again in a con-fident manner, then their hearers will tend to be-lieve them quite independently of their soundness and of the presence or absence of evidence for their truth. (Thouless, 1974, p. Ill) The tendency to believe statements on the basis of repetition rather than evidence is not logically founded; indeed, Wittgenstein ridi-culed the tendency by comparing it to buying a second newspaper to determine whether the first one was correct (Kenny, 1973). On the other hand, as Russell (1973) observed, it is often difficult, if not impos-sible, to obtain direct evidence regarding the