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That’s not what you said the first time: A theoretical account of the relationship between consistency and accuracy of recall

Authors
  • Stanley, Sarah E.1
  • Benjamin, Aaron S.1
  • 1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 603 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL, 61820, USA , Champaign (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Publisher
Springer International Publishing
Publication Date
Nov 05, 2016
Volume
1
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1186/s41235-016-0012-9
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Over multiple response opportunities, recall may be inconsistent. For example, an eyewitness may report information at trial that was not reported during initial questioning—a phenomenon called reminiscence. Such inconsistencies are often assumed by lawyers to be inaccurate and are sometimes interpreted as evidence of the general unreliability of the rememberer. In two experiments, we examined the output-bound accuracy of inconsistent memories and found that reminisced memories were indeed less accurate than memories that were reported consistently over multiple opportunities. However, reminisced memories were just as accurate as memories that were reported initially but not later, indicating that it is the inconsistency of recall, and not the later addition to the recall output, that predicts lower accuracy. Finally, rememberers who exhibited more inconsistent recall were less accurate overall, which, if confirmed by more ecologically valid studies, may indicate that the common legal assumption may be correct: Witnesses who provide inconsistent testimony provide generally less trustworthy information overall.

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