Effects of instructions and delay of recall on memory for central and peripheral detail in a simulated crime

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Gamble, Donna M.
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The effects of type of instruction (detail vs. neutral vs. crime), delay of recall (immediate vs. 48 hours), and gender (female vs. male), on participants' recall of correct detail (central vs. peripheral) from a slide sequence that depicts a minor crime were investigated. Introductory psychology participants were randomly assigned to conditions in a 3 x 2 x 2 x 2 mixed factorial design. Participants viewed the slide sequence and then were asked to recall as many details as possible. A six-item, critical-item quiz used by other investigators was also administered to participants. Females recalled significantly more correct peripheral items than males, but did not differ on correct central, correct critical-items, or number of errors made. Delay in recall resulted in significantly fewer correct details in the peripheral and critical-item measures, but had no significant effect on the number of correct central details recalled. The detail instructions resulted in a significant increase in correct responding on the peripheral and critical-item measures and a significant decrease in correct responding on the central-item measure, as compared to both the neutral and crime instructions. The neutral and crime instr ctions did not differ significantly from one another in their effects on peripheral, central, or critical-item measures. The author suggests that participants had a common script for minor crimes. Unless specifically instructed to attend to peripheral detail unrelated to the crime, they attended to central detail. Past research on the misinformation effect with the McCloskey and Zaragoza (1985a) slides has utilized neutral instructions, but has concentrated on measures that are composed primarily of peripheral detail. Implications for the ecological validity of the misinformation analogue are discussed.