Can fabricated evidence induce false eyewitness testimony?

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Abstract

False information can influence people's beliefs and memories. But can fabricated evidence induce individuals to accuse another person of doing something they never did? We examined whether exposure to a fabricated video could produce false eyewitness testimony. Subjects completed a gambling task alongside a confederate subject, and later we falsely told subjects that their partner had cheated on the task. Some subjects viewed a digitally manipulated video of their partner cheating; some were told that video evidence of the cheating exists; and others were not told anything about video evidence. Subjects were asked to sign a statement confirming that they witnessed the incident and that their corroboration could be used in disciplinary action against the accused. See-video subjects were three times more likely to sign the statement than Told-video and Control subjects. Fabricated evidence may, indeed, produce false eyewitness testimony; we discuss probable cognitive mechanisms. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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