Memory & Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 467-475

First online:

Editing misleading information from memory: Evidence for the coexistence of original and postevent information

  • Robert E. ChristiaansenAffiliated withPsychology Department, Lawrence University
  • , Kathleen OchalekAffiliated withPsychology Department, Lawrence University


When misleading postevent information biases one’s memory for an event, what is the fate of the original, accurate information? One possibility is that the new information and the original information coexist in memory, but that the former is simply more accessible. A second hypothesis suggests that the new information replaces the old, and memory is irreversibly altered. Using various retrieval techniques, Loftus and her associates (Greene, Flynn, & Loftus, 1982; Loftus, 1979a, 1979b) have failed repeatedly in attempts to recover original memories after postevent biasing, a finding that supports the alteration hypothesis. In the present study, postevent biasing was demonstrated in two experiments. In each experiment, some subjects were given a warning that the postevent information had included a few inaccurate details. These subjects were able to edit out the inaccurate details and to recover the original facts when the warning came as much as 45 rain after they had read the misleading information, a result that argues for the coexistence of memories. Successful recovery of the original memories was apparently due to the clarity of the warning and to an improved technique for assessing the retrieval of original memories.