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A Study to Investigate Whether Leading Questions have an Effect on Memory

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A Study to Investigate Whether the use of Leading Questions have an Effect on Participants Memory in a Memory Test Abstract This experiment was based on Loftus et al's study in 1975 on leading questions. This is where the desired answer is indicated to the individual. In this case it was the use of the definite (the) article, people are more likely to claim they remember seeing an item that wasn't there if they were presented with the definite article (the). The aim of this experiment is to investigate the impact of leading questions on memory. I will explore whether a participant will claim to see a non - existent item because of leading questions in a memory test, in condition 1, participants will be asked a question with the definite article in and in condition 2, participants will be asked a question with the indefinite article. The design used in this experiment was an Independent Group Design. The Alternative Hypothesis is that participants asked the question with the definite article in would have a higher number of incorrect answers than those asked the question including the indefinite article. The Null Hypothesis is that there will be no significant difference between the number of incorrect answers given by those asked the question with the indefinite article and the number of incorrect answers given by those asked the question with the use of the definite article. Any difference that does occur will be down to chance. The sampling method used in this investigation was Non-Random Opportunity Sampling. ...read more.


I chose the image out of vogue as it wasn't insulting or would cause offence to anyone who took part in the experiment. It also had a lot going on, there were many colours, shapes and items on the page, which gave the participants a lot to think about. The experimenter chose to ask participants 5 questions even though they were only going to analyse and compare the answers to one of them. These questions were used as distracter questions so that the participant is lead to believe that the aim of the experiment is really a memory test. The participants were shown this image for exactly 60 seconds before it was taken away from them. The experimenter then asked them 5 questions about the picture, 1 of which was a leading question, which the results will be focusing on. Participants had as much time as needed to answer the questions but the experimenter had to accept their first answer. Procedure I first approached possible participants in the sixth form centre at King Edwards VI high school in Morpeth and introduced myself as a psychology student and said I was looking for people to take part in a simple memory test, would they be willing to give me some of there time. If they agreed I gave them the consent form, which had a copy of the brief (see copy below and in appendix) at the top, this told the participants their task and introduced them to what they were going to have to do. They read through it and if they still agreed they would partake in the experiment they would and give formal informed consent in the form of a signature on the consent form. ...read more.


This conclusion is similar to the one that can be drawn from this experiment as the number of incorrect answers given by those participants presented with the definite article was significantly higher than those presented with the indefinite article. The conclusion that is drawn from the results of this experiment is that overall peoples' memories are mislead by the use of the definite article. When participants were presented with the definite article there were significantly more incorrect answers given, which is what would be suggested by Loftus et al's research. This is very important in matters of law, especially in a courtroom if a defendant is being convicted on eyewitness testimony alone. The lawyer may use skilful leading questions including the definite article to change the eyewitness' memory of the event. One limitation of this investigation is the sample size used. In this investigation the sample was only 12 people and therefore not large enough generalise to the whole of the target population. One way to improve this investigation would be to increase the sample size to 100 participants, I would then have 50 participants in each condition and therefore results would show a clear representation of the target population. One way in which this investigation could be adapted for further research would be to change the independent variable. Instead of using the indefinite article in condition 1 and the definite article in condition 2, the definite article would be used in both conditions and the independent variable would be gender, therefore having males in condition 1 and females in condition 2 and both conditions would be questioned with the definite article to investigate whether it is males or females that are more likely to be mislead by the use leading question. ...read more.

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