Memory & Cognition

, Volume 34, Issue 5, pp 1140-1149

First online:

Learning errors from fiction: Difficulties in reducing reliance on fictional stories

  • Elizabeth J. MarshAffiliated withPsychology and Neuroscience, Duke University Email author 
  • , Lisa K. FazioAffiliated withPsychology and Neuroscience, Duke University


Readers rely on fiction as a source of information, even when fiction contradicts relatively wellknown facts about the world (Marsh, Meade, & Roediger, 2003). Of interest was whether readers could monitor fiction for errors, in order to reduce suggestibility. In Experiment 1, warnings about errors in fiction did not reduce students’ reliance on stories. In Experiment 2, all subjects were warned before reading stories written at 6th- or 12th-grade reading levels. Even though 6th-grade stories freed resources for monitoring, suggestibility was not reduced. In Experiment 3, suggestibility was reduced but not eliminated when subjects pressed a key each time they detected an error during story reading. Readers do not appear to spontaneously monitor fiction for its veracity, but can do so if reminded on a trial-by-trial basis.