Memory & Cognition

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 11–26 | Cite as

Reducing reliance on inaccurate information

  • David N. RappEmail author
  • Scott R. Hinze
  • Kristine Kohlhepp
  • Rachel A. Ryskin


People learn from the texts that they read, but sometimes what they read is wrong. Previous research has demonstrated that individuals encode even obvious inaccuracies, at times relying on the misinformation to complete postreading tasks. In the present study, we investigated whether the influence of inaccurate information might be reduced by encouraging the retrieval of accurate knowledge. Participants read an extended text that contained both accurate and inaccurate assertions, after which they evaluated the validity of statements associated with those assertions. In general, participants made more mistakes in their evaluations of statements after having read inaccurate as compared to accurate assertions, offering evidence of the influence of misinformation. However, when participants were tasked with correcting inaccuracies during reading, their mistakes were substantially reduced. Encouraging the retrieval of accurate knowledge during reading can reduce the influence of misinformation. These findings are discussed with respect to the contributions of episodic traces and prior knowledge on learning, as well as to the conditions that support successful comprehension.


Learning Memory Prior knowledge Reading comprehension Persuasion Text processing 


Author note

We thank Allison Weinberg for her assistance in data collection. We also thank Matt Jacovina and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this manuscript should be addressed to David N. Rapp, 2120 Campus Drive, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208 (e-mail:


  1. Appel, M., & Richter, T. (2007). Persuasive effects of fictional narratives increase over time. Media Psychology, 10, 113–134.Google Scholar
  2. Alvermann, D. E., & Hague, S. A. (1989). Comprehension of counterintuitive science text: Effects of prior knowledge and text structure. The Journal of Educational Research, 82, 197–202.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, J. R. (1981). Effects of prior knowledge on memory for new information. Memory & Cognition, 9, 237–246. doi: 10.3758/BF03196958 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson, L. (2006). McGraw-Hill’s proofreading handbook (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  5. Baayen, R. H., Davidson, D. J., & Bates, D. M. (2008). Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 390–412. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2007.12.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bates, D., Maechler, M., & Bolker, B. (2011). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes [Software]. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Retrieved from
  7. Britton, B. K., & Black, J. B. (Eds.). (1985). Understanding expository text. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  8. Brunyé, T. T., Mahoney, C. R., Rapp, D. N., Ditman, T., & Taylor, H. A. (2012). Caffeine enhances real-world language processing: Evidence from a proofreading task. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Applied, 18, 95–108.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Butler, A. C., Zaromb, F., Lyle, K. B., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2009). Using popular films to enhance classroom learning: The good, the bad, and the interesting. Psychological Science, 20, 1161–1168.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chi, M. T. H., de Leeuw, N., Chiu, M., & LaVancher, C. (1994). Eliciting self-explanation improves understanding. Cognitive Science, 18, 439–477.Google Scholar
  11. Diakidoy, I.-A., & Kendeou, P. (2001). Facilitating conceptual change in astronomy: A comparison of the effectiveness of two instructional approaches. Learning and Instruction, 11, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eslick, A. N., Fazio, L. K., & Marsh, E. J. (2011). Ironic effects of drawing attention to story errors. Memory, 19, 184–191.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fazio, L. K., Barber, S. J., Rajaram, S., Ornstein, P. A., & Marsh, E. J. (2013). Creating illusions of knowledge: Learning errors that contradict prior knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 142, 1–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fazio, L. K., & Marsh, E. J. (2008a). Older, not younger, children learn more from false facts from stories. Cognition, 106, 1081–1089.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fazio, L. K., & Marsh, E. J. (2008b). Slowing presentation speed increases illusions of knowledge. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15, 180–185. doi: 10.3758/PBR.15.1.180 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gallo, D. A. (2010). False memories and fantastic beliefs: 15 years of the DRM illusion. Memory & Cognition, 38, 833–848. doi: 10.3758/MC.38.7.833 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gerrig, R. J. (1993). Experiencing narrative worlds. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gerrig, R. J., & McKoon, G. (1998). The readiness is all: The functionality of memory-based text processing. Discourse Processes, 26, 67–86. doi: 10.1080/01638539809545039 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gerrig, R. J., & McKoon, G. (2001). Memory processes and experiential continuity. Psychological Science, 12, 81–85.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gerrig, R. J., & Prentice, D. A. (1991). The representation of fictional information. Psychological Science, 2, 336–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gilbert, D. T., Krull, D. S., & Malone, P. S. (1990). Unbelieving the unbelievable: Some problems in the rejection of false information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 601–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gilbert, D. T., Tafarodi, R. W., & Malone, P. S. (1993). You can’t not believe everything you read. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 221–233.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Graesser, A. C., Singer, M., & Trabasso, T. (1994). Constructing inferences during narrative text comprehension. Psychological Review, 101, 371–395. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.101.3.371 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (2000). The role of transportation in the persuasiveness of public narratives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 701–721.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Green, M. C., & Dill, K. E. (2013). Engaging with stories and characters: Learning, persuasion, and transportation into narrative worlds. In K. E. Dill (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of media psychology (pp. 449–461). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Guzzetti, B. J., Snyder, T. E., Glass, G. V., & Gamas, W. S. (1993). Promoting conceptual change in science: A comparative meta-analysis of instructional interventions from reading education and science education. Reading Research Quarterly, 28, 117–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hinze, S. R., Wiley, J., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2013). The importance of constructive comprehension processes in learning from tests. Journal of Memory and Language.Google Scholar
  28. Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1983). Mental models. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science, 331, 772–775. doi: 10.1126/science.1199327 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2007). Repeated retrieval during learning is the key to long-term retention. Journal of Memory and Language, 57, 151–162. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2006.09.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kendeou, P., Muis, K. R., & Fulton, S. (2011). Reader and text factors in reading comprehension processes. Journal of Research in Reading, 34, 365–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kintsch, W. (1998). Comprehension: A paradigm for cognition. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Mar, R. A., & Oatley, K. (2008). The function of fiction is the abstraction and simulation of social experience. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 173–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Marsh, E. J. (2004). Story stimuli for creating false beliefs about the world. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36, 650–655. doi: 10.3758/BF03206546 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marsh, E. J., & Fazio, L. K. (2006). Learning errors from fiction: Difficulties in reducing reliance on fictional stories. Memory & Cognition, 34, 1140–1149. doi: 10.3758/BF03193260 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marsh, E. J., & Fazio, L. K. (2007). Learning from fictional sources. In J. Nairne (Ed.), The foundations of remembering: Essays in honor of Henry L. Roediger III (pp. 397–413). New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  37. Marsh, E. J., Meade, M. L., & Roediger, H. L. (2003). Learning facts from fiction. Journal of Memory and Language, 49, 519–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McNamara, D. (2004). SERT: Self-explanation reading training. Discourse Processes, 38, 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Myers, J. L., & O’Brien, E. J. (1998). Accessing the discourse representation during reading. Discourse Processes, 26, 131–157. doi: 10.1080/01638539809545042 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nelson, T. O., & Narens, L. (1980). Norms of 300 general-information questions: Accuracy of recall, latency of recall, and feeling-of-knowing ratings. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 19, 338–368. doi: 10.1016/S0022-5371(80)90266-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. O’Brien, E. J. (1995). Automatic components of discourse comprehension. In R. F. Lorch & E. J. O’Brien (Eds.), Sources of coherence in reading (pp. 159–176). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  42. Pearson, P. D., Hanson, J., & Gordon, C. (1979). The effect of background knowledge on young children’s comprehension of explicit and implicit information. Journal of Reading Behavior, 9, 201–209.Google Scholar
  43. Prentice, D. A., Gerrig, R. J., & Bailis, D. S. (1997). What readers bring to the processing of fictional texts. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 4, 416–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Quené, H., & van den Bergh, H. (2008). Examples of mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects and with binomial data. Journal of Memory and Language, 59, 413–425. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2008.02.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rapp, D. N. (2008). How do readers handle incorrect information during reading? Memory & Cognition, 36, 688–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rapp, D. N., Hinze, S. R., Slaten, D. G., & Horton, W. S. (2013). Amazing stories: Acquiring and avoiding inaccurate information from fiction. Discourse Processes Google Scholar
  47. Rapp, D. N., & Mensink, M. C. (2011). Focusing effects from online and offline reading tasks. In M. T. McCrudden, J. P. Magliano, & G. Schraw (Eds.), Text relevance and learning from text (pp. 141–164). Greenwich, CT: Information Age.Google Scholar
  48. Rapp, D. N., & van den Broek, P. (2005). Dynamic text comprehension: An integrative view of reading. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 276–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ratcliff, R. (1978). A theory of memory retrieval. Psychological Review, 85, 59–108. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.85.2.59 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Reder, L. M. (1979). The role of elaborations in memory for prose. Cognitive Psychology, 11, 221–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Reder, L. M. (1982). Plausibility judgments versus fact retrieval: Alternative strategies for sentence verification. Psychological Review, 89, 248–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Richter, T. (2006). What is wrong with ANOVA and multiple regression? Analyzing sentence reading times with hierarchical linear models. Discourse Processes, 41, 221–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Richter, T., Schroeder, S., & Wöhrmann, B. (2009). You don’t have to believe everything you read: Background knowledge permits fast and efficient validation of information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 538–558.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rizzella, M. L., & O’Brien, E. J. (2002). Retrieval of concepts in script-based texts and narratives: The influence of general world knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28, 780–790.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Singer, M. (2006). Verification of text ideas during reading. Journal of Memory and Language, 54, 574–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Slater, M. D., & Rouner, D. (2002). Entertainment-education and elaboration likelihood: Understanding the processing of narrative persuasion. Communication Theory, 12, 173–191.Google Scholar
  57. Spires, H. A., & Donley, J. (1998). Prior knowledge activation: Inducing engagement with informational texts. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 249–260. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.90.2.249 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Storm, B. C. (2011). Retrieval-induced forgetting and the resolution of competition. In A. S. Benjamin (Ed.), Successful remembering and successful forgetting: A festschrift in honor of Robert A. Bjork (pp. 89–105). New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  59. Umanath, S., Butler, A. C., & Marsh, E. J. (2012). Positive and negative effects of monitoring public films for historical inaccuracies. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 556–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. van den Broek, P., & Kendeou, P. (2008). Cognitive processes in comprehension of scientific texts: The role of co-activation in confronting misconceptions. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 335–351. doi: 10.1002/acp.1418 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. van den Broek, P., Rapp, D. N., & Kendeou, P. (2005). Integrating memory-based and constructionist processes in accounts of reading comprehension. Discourse Processes, 39, 299–316. doi: 10.1207/s15326950dp3902&3_11 Google Scholar
  62. van Dijk, T. A., & Kintsch, W. (1983). Strategies of discourse comprehension. New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  63. Wheeler, S. C., Green, M. C., & Brock, T. C. (1999). Fictional narratives change beliefs: Replications of Prentice, Gerrig, & Bailis (1997) with mixed corroboration. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 6, 136–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wiswede, D., Koranyi, N., Müller, F., Langner, O., & Rothermund, K. (2013). Validating the truth of propositions: Behavioral and ERP indicators of truth evaluation processes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Google Scholar
  65. Yerkovich, F. R., & Walker, C. H. (1986). Retrieval of scripted concepts. Journal of Memory and Language, 25, 627–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zwaan, R. A., & Rapp, D. N. (2006). Discourse comprehension. In M. Traxler & M. A. Gernsbacher (Eds.), Handbook of psycholinguistics (2nd ed., pp. 725–764). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • David N. Rapp
    • 1
    Email author
  • Scott R. Hinze
    • 1
  • Kristine Kohlhepp
    • 1
  • Rachel A. Ryskin
    • 2
  1. 1.Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

Personalised recommendations