Talking about visually perceived events: Communication effects on eyewitness memory

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Abstract

Communicators' tuning of a message about a social target to their audience's evaluation can shape their representation of the target. This audience-tuning effect has been demonstrated with ambiguous text passages as input material. We examined whether the effect also occurs when communicators learn about the target's behaviours from visual (nonverbal) input material. In Experiment 1, participants watched a soundless video depicting ambiguous behaviours of a target, described the video to an audience who liked (vs. disliked) the target, and subsequently recalled the video. Both message and recall were biased towards the audience's judgement. In Experiment 2, the video depicted a forensically relevant event, specifically ambiguous behaviours of two persons involved in a bar brawl. Participants tuned their event retellings to their audience's responsibility judgement and remembered the event accordingly. In both experiments, the effect of the audience's judgement on recall was statistically mediated by the extent to which the message was tuned to the audience. The more participants experienced a shared reality with their audience the stronger was the message-recall correlation (Experiment 2). We conclude that the audience-tuning effect for visually perceived information depends on the communicators' creation of a shared reality with their audience. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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