Paradoxical Effects of Testing: Retrieval Enchances Both Accurate Recall and Suggestibility in Eyewitness

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Although retrieval practice typically enhances memory retention, it can also impair subsequent eyewitness memory accuracy (Chan, Thomas, & Bulevich, 2009). Specifically, participants who had taken an initial test about a witnessed event were more likely than nontested participants to recall subsequently encountered misinformation—an effect we called retrieval-enhanced suggestibility (RES). Here, we sought to test the generality of RES and to further elucidate its underlying mechanisms. To that end, we tested a dual mechanism account, which suggests that RES occurs because initial testing (a) enhances learning of the later misinformation by reducing proactive interference and (b) causes the reactivated memory trace to be more susceptible to later interference (i.e., a reconsolidation account). Three major findings emerged. First, RES was found after a 1-week delay, where a robust testing benefit occurred for event details that were not contradicted by later misinformation. Second, blockage of reconsolidation was unnecessary for RES to occur. Third, initial testing enhanced learning of the misinformation even when proactive interference played a minimal role.

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition