High prevalence information from different sources affects the development of false beliefs

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Abstract

To examine the effects of high and low false prevalence information from different sources on false beliefs, subjects took part in two sessions. In the first session, subjects rated the plausibility of different childhood events, how confident they were that they had experienced those events and their memories of those events. In the second session, 2 weeks later, subjects received high prevalence information about one target event and low prevalence information about another. Subjects received the information in a third-person description, a newspaper article, or cohort data about previous students' experiences, or they received no information. High prevalence newspaper and cohort information increased subjects' plausibility ratings compared to no information and third-person descriptions. High prevalence newspaper information also increased subjects' belief ratings. Our findings contribute to the growing literature demonstrating the role of false high prevalence information in the development of false beliefs. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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