Individual difference variables in habitual susceptibility to misinformation

Benjamin R Bock, Marquette University


The misinformation effect is elicited by presenting misleading post-event misinformation then testing for memory of the event. Source confusion is hypothesized to underlie the effect. A framework that combines common explanations for the misinformation by Blank (1998) centers individual assumptions of consistency in information as a link to detecting discrepancies in conflicting information sources. The ability to detect discrepancies between sources can contribute to susceptibility to misinformation. Personality scales or individual difference measures used to evaluate the individual factors show mixed results in prior research. This study used individual difference tests to assess tendency to assume consistency, ability to detect discrepancies, and tendency toward source confusion. The individual difference measures were: Need for Closure Scale, Interpersonal Trust Scale, Mental Rotations Test, Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire, the Deese-Roediger-McDermott procedure, the Wechsler Symbol Search, and the newly-created Detecting Detail Discrepancies test. Participants viewed 5 films and completed memory questionnaires about the films. Two-thirds of the group received misinformation and the remaining third received consistent information. Half the misinformed group was warned about misinformation. Participants' memories for the film events were assessed in recognition and recall formats. Exit interviews asked about consistency assumptions, detection of discrepancies, and experience of source confusion. The results showed the expected robust misinformation effect in recognition and recall testing. The early warning did not reduce the effect in recognition tests, and appeared to enhance the effect in recall tests. Warned participants reported more source confusion. Those who reported detecting discrepancies also reported source confusion. Those designated as habitually susceptible from high misinformation recognition scores were not more likely to recall misinformation, but did have lower MRT scores. False memory on DRM did not relate to misinformation responses but did relate to reported source confusion. The DDD related to reported discrepancy detection, but not to misinformation or reported source confusion. Author questions the robustness of habitual susceptibility as a trait, notes tendency for mixed findings in individual difference approach to misinformation, and the unexpected finding of early warning upon misinformation in delayed free recall. Suggestions are made for further research.

Recommended Citation

Bock, Benjamin R, "Individual difference variables in habitual susceptibility to misinformation" (2009). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3357942.