Say it to my face: Examining the effects of socially encountered misinformation


Department of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Old Aberdeen AB24 2UB, UK (e-mail:


Objectives. Errors in eyewitness accounts can occur when a witness comes into contact with post-event ‘misinformation’. A common way to encounter misinformation is through face-to-face interaction, in particular, via conversation with other individuals who also witnessed the crime. The current research compares this kind of misinformation with the non-social post-event narrative method typically employed in laboratory studies.

Method. Young (17–33 years) and older (58–80 years) adults viewed a simulated crime event on video and were later exposed to four items of misinformation about it. The misinformation items were either introduced as part of a discussion about the event with a confederate or were embedded within a written narrative about the event that participants were asked to read. A questionnaire containing 20 items about the event was given to participants before and after the experimental manipulation.

Results. Participants were less accurate than controls on questionnaire items after encountering misinformation. More importantly, misinformation encountered socially was significantly more misleading than misinformation from a non-social source. This was true for both young and older adults.

Conclusion. Misinformation encountered socially produced more errors than misinformation from a non-social source. This finding has implications both for applied (forensic) and theoretical understanding of eyewitness memory.