Memory conformity: Actors and bystanders

Mariana E Carlucci, Florida International University


This dissertation explored memory conformity effects on people who interacted with a confederate and of bystanders to that interaction. Two studies were carried out. Study 1 was conducted in the field. A male confederate approached a group of people at the beach and had a brief interaction. About a minute later a research assistant approached the group and administered a target-absent lineup to each person in the group. Analyses revealed that memory conformity occurred during the lineup task. Bystanders were twice as likely to conform as those who interacted with the confederate. Study 2 was carried out in a laboratory under controlled conditions. Participants were exposed to two events during their time in the laboratory. In one event, participants were shown a brief video with no determinate roles assigned. In the other event participants were randomly assigned to interact with a confederate (actor condition) or to witness that interaction (bystander condition). Participants were given memory tests on both events to understand the effects of participant role (actor vs. bystander) on memory conformity. Participants answered second to all questions, following a confederate acting as a participant, who disseminated misinformation on critical questions. Analyses revealed no significant differences in memory conformity between actors and bystanders during the movie memory task. However, differences were found for the interaction memory task such that bystanders conformed more than actors on two of four critical questions. Bystanders also conformed more than actors during a lineup identification task. The results of these studies suggest that the role a person plays in an interaction affects how susceptible they are to information from a co-witness. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed. First, the results are explained through the use of two models of memory. Second, recommendations are made for forensic investigators.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Experimental psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Carlucci, Mariana E, "Memory conformity: Actors and bystanders" (2011). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3484200.