Memory & Cognition

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 550–555

Ripple effects in memory: judgments of moral blame can distort memory for events


    • Department of PsychologyCornell University
  • Cara Laney
    • University of California
  • Erin K. Morris
    • University of California
  • Elizabeth F. Loftus
    • University of California

DOI: 10.3758/BF03193578

Cite this article as:
Pizarro, D.A., Laney, C., Morris, E.K. et al. Memory & Cognition (2006) 34: 550. doi:10.3758/BF03193578


Can judging an individual as being morally responsible for a negative act affect memory for details of the act? We presented participants with a story describing an individual (Frank) who committed a crime (he walked out on a restaurant bill). Some participants were told that the negative act was not intentional and that Frank was essentially a good person. Others were told that the negative act was intentional and that Frank actually enjoyed it. Control participants were given no extra information. All the participants then judged Frank’s moral responsibility for walking out on the bill. When asked a week later to recall information about the event, the participants who had received negative information about Frank remembered that Frank had walked out on a larger restaurant bill than he actually had. Moreover, the degree of memory distortion was predicted by the degree of moral blame that had been attributed to Frank.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2006