Memory & Cognition

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 305–324 | Cite as

Pilgrims sailing the Titanic: Plausibility effects on memory for misinformation

  • Scott R. HinzeEmail author
  • Daniel G. Slaten
  • William S. Horton
  • Ryan Jenkins
  • David N. Rapp


People rely on information they read even when it is inaccurate (Marsh, Meade, & Roediger, Journal of Memory and Language 49:519–536, 2003), but how ubiquitous is this phenomenon? In two experiments, we investigated whether this tendency to encode and rely on inaccuracies from text might be influenced by the plausibility of misinformation. In Experiment 1, we presented stories containing inaccurate plausible statements (e.g., “The Pilgrims’ ship was the Godspeed”), inaccurate implausible statements (e.g., . . . the Titanic), or accurate statements (e.g., . . . the Mayflower). On a subsequent test of general knowledge, participants relied significantly less on implausible than on plausible inaccuracies from the texts but continued to rely on accurate information. In Experiment 2, we replicated these results with the addition of a think-aloud procedure to elicit information about readers’ noticing and evaluative processes for plausible and implausible misinformation. Participants indicated more skepticism and less acceptance of implausible than of plausible inaccuracies. In contrast, they often failed to notice, completely ignored, and at times even explicitly accepted the misinformation provided by plausible lures. These results offer insight into the conditions under which reliance on inaccurate information occurs and suggest potential mechanisms that may underlie reported misinformation effects.


Memory False memory Text processing 


Author Note

Scott R. Hinze, Daniel G. Slaten, William S. Horton, Ryan Jenkins, and David N. Rapp, Northwestern University.

Scott R. Hinze is now in the Psychology Department at Virginia Wesleyan College.

Direct all correspondence to Scott Hinze, Department of Psychology, 1584 Wesleyan Dr., Virginia Wesleyan College, Norfolk, VA, 23502. E-mail: Phone: 757-455-3288.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott R. Hinze
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Daniel G. Slaten
    • 1
  • William S. Horton
    • 1
  • Ryan Jenkins
    • 1
  • David N. Rapp
    • 1
  1. 1.Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyVirginia Wesleyan CollegeNorfolkUSA

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