Memory and truth: correcting errors with true feedback versus overwriting correct answers with errors

Metcalfe, Janet; Eich, Teal S.

In five experiments, we examined the conditions under which participants remembered true and false information given as feedback. Participants answered general information questions, expressed their confidence in the correctness of their answers, and were given true or false feedback. In all five experiments, participants hypercorrected when they had made a mistake; that is, they remembered better the correct feedback to errors made with high compared to low confidence. However, in none of the experiments did participants hyper'correct' when false feedback followed an initially correct response. Telling people whether the feedback was right or wrong made little difference, suggesting that people already knew whether the feedback was true or false and differentially encoded the true feedback compared to the false feedback. An exception occurred when false feedback followed an error: participants hyper'corrected' to this false feedback, suggesting that when people are wrong initially, they are susceptible to further incorrect information. These results indicate that people have some kind of privileged access to whether their answers are right or wrong, above and beyond their confidence ratings, and that they behave differently when trying to remember new “corrective” information depending upon whether they, themselves, were right or wrong initially. The likely source of this additional information is knowledge about the truth of the feedback, which they rapidly process and use to modulate memory encoding.


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Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications

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December 20, 2022