"Are false memories permanent?": an investigation of the long-term effects of source misattributions.

Research paper by M L ML Huffman, A M AM Crossman, S J SJ Ceci

Indexed on: 28 Feb '98Published on: 28 Feb '98Published in: Consciousness and Cognition


With growing concerns over children's suggestibility and how it may impact their reliability as witnesses, there is increasing interest in determining the long-term effects of induced memories. The goal of the present research was to learn whether source misattributions found by Ceci, Huffman, Smith, and Loftus (1994) caused permanent memory alterations in the subjects tested. When 22 children from the original study were reinterviewed 2 years later, they recalled 77% of all true events. However, they only consented to 13% of all false events, compared to the 22% false consent rate (among the same subset of children) found by Ceci et al. (1994). Additionally, while children remained accurate in their recall of true events (they maintained assents 78% of the time), they "recanted" their earlier false consents 77% of the time, after the 2-year delay. Implications of these findings for child witnesses and the legal system are discussed.