Memory conformity: disentangling the steps toward influence during a discussion
When two people see the same event and discuss it, one person's memory report can influence what the other person subsequently claims to remember. We refer to this as memory conformity. In the present article, two factors underlying the memory conformity effect are investigated. First, are there any characteristics of the dialogue that predict memory conformity? Second, is memory conformity differentially affected when information is encountered that omits, adds to, or contradicts originally encoded items? Participants were tested in pairs. The two members of each pair encoded slightly different versions of complex scenes and discussed them prior to an individual free recall test The discussions were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed. Our most striking finding was that the witness initiating the discussion was most likely to influence the other witness's memory report. Furthermore, witnesses were most likely to be influenced when an additional (previously unseen) item of information was encountered in the discussion.