Contamination or natural variation? A comparison of contradictions from suggested contagion and intrinsic variation in repeated autobiographical accounts

Misia Temler*, Amanda J. Barnier, John Sutton, Doris J. F. McIlwain

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Contradictions and other changes across retellings can result from contamination from others, deception, or natural variation. In this study we used the social contagion paradigm to investigate (a) the relative frequencies and types of contradictions resulting from outside suggestion and from natural variation, and (b) a baseline measure of variation in autobiographical memory accounts across retellings. Participants recalled memories of four personal events. One week later, participants and confederates alternated in describing their own and summarising each other's autobiographical events. The confederates included a contradictory contagion detail in two of the participants’ events. The participants then individually recalled their own events. Twenty percent of participants made contradictions due to contagion, but 63% of participants made contradictions due to intrinsic variation. Accounts also exhibited other forms of variation. Concern about negative evaluation and social closeness ratings predicted contradictions due to contagion but not intrinsic variation. We discuss applications to forensic settings.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)108-117
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
    Volume9
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

    Keywords

    • social contagion
    • autobiographical memory
    • contradictions
    • consistency
    • social influence
    • forensic
    • asylum seeking

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