'Of course I remember seeing that film' - how ambiguous questions generate crashing memories

T. Smeets*, M. Jelicic, M.J.V. Peters, I.E.L. Candel, R. Horselenberg, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although previous research has shown that people are willing to report having seen non-existent footages of high publicity events, no study has looked at the potential boundaries of what has been dubbed the crashing memory paradigm. We examined whether the ambiguity of interview questions may lead some people to affirm without much conviction having seen non-existent footages. Using ambiguous, specific high-suggestive, specific low-suggestive, or neutral questions, the current study asked 120 individuals whether they had seen non-existent footage of the assassination of the famous Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. Replicating previous research, 63% of our participants in the ambiguous group falsely reported having seen the footage. This percentage dropped to 30% for the specific high-suggestive as well as the specific low-suggestive group, while still 27% of the neutral group were willing to make false reports. Our results demonstrate that crashing memories do depend on the way in which people are interviewed, but that question type does not fully account for these false reports.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-789
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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