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IB Psychology

Internal Assessment
An experiment investigating the influence of wording in leading questions on memory

Candidate name: Maria Sosinska Candidate number: 000598-031 Subject and Level: Psychology HL Date of submission: 17.01.2013 Word count: 1,997

ABSTRACT The aim of this experiment was to investigate whether different wording in a leading question would have an influence on recall. thus supporting Loftus and Palmer's theory stated in 1974. Word count: 146 . The conclusion of the study was that factors such as changing one word in a leading question can manipulate memory. The results accepted the research hypothesis at P≤0. They were asked to watch a video of a car accident. and then fill out a questionnaire where one of the questions was asking for a speed estimate of one of the cars. as Loftus and Palmer stated in their theory in 1974. 20 IB students from Nørre Gymnasium were divided equally into five different groups. To conduct this experiment. hence showing that the speed estimate given by the participants varied significantly depending on the condition.01. The leading question had different wording in each of the five groups.

....................... 6 Reference............................................................................................................................ 4 Procedure.............................................................................................................................. 8 . 3 Participants................................................................................................... 3 Design........................................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Appendices.................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Introduction. 3 Materials..........................TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract......................... 5 Discussion............................................................................................................................................................ 4 Results......................................................................................................................................................................... 1 Method........................................ i.....................................................................................

But to what extent? In 1974. Research indicates that what and how we remember might be influenced by factors such as previous experience and knowledge. Participants receiving the word "smashed" gave the highest estimates. This because the story was more foreign to them. The verb phrase "hit" was replaced by "smashed". Loftus and Palmer concluded that use of words activates different schemas in memory. (Crane & Hannibal. The reason to why the human brain fails to correctly encode all the information and tend to reconstruct the memories could be explained by the previously mentioned schema theory by Bartlett (1932). They argued that research on memory conducted in laboratory does not show correctly what would have happened in a real life situation. The critical question was: “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?". "bumped" and "contacted". The IV was the wording in the critical question. and can therefore easily distort it. 2009). Bartlett showed this in his empirical study in 1932. 60% of the participants said yes. "collided". Loftus and Palmer conducted a study investigating the role of leading questions on recall. The participants watched a video of a car crash. such as the EWT. it says that the previous experience and pre-existing knowledge tends to reconstruct memories. Leading questions were used in the interviews in order to throw recall. 1 . in 1986 Yuille and Cutshall (in Gross 1996) criticized Loftus and Palmer's study for its lack of ecological validity. participants coming from western cultures had greater difficulties with reproducing the story correctly. in 1996 Crombag et al conducted a study where the participants were asked if they remember seeing footage of a certain flight crash. Bartlett noticed that the story was becoming shorter and less specific each time it was being retold. Also. This would mean that for instance eyewitness testimony (EWT). He argues that memory is reconstructive and that schemas influence recall.This phenomenon has been stated by Bartlett in his book Remembering (1932) about the schema theory. Yuille and Cutshall conducted a study where witnesses of violent crime were interviewed by the researchers 4-5 months after they had been interviewed by the police. Crane & Hannibal. The aim of the study was to see whether a change of one word in a critical question would influence speed estimates. hearing stories from others can influence reconstruction of images in the human mind. To demonstrate this. where the participants were told a story based on a Native American legend. could be highly unreliable.e. and that i. 2009). They were then asked to retell the story various times. The results showed that there was accuracy in the accounts. which is frequently used in society. and then estimated the cars’ speed. in separate trials. However. However. Suggesting that all new information interacts with the old information. This shows that methods depending completely on witnesses' memory. and hence difficult to put in a familiar "schema".INTRODUCTION Cognitive psychology deals with mental processes such as memory. even though such footage does not exist. whereas the DV was the participants' speed estimation. despite the time that had passed since the crime event. should not be considered as very reliable. This shows that the nature of memory is misleading.

Note that the original study used five conditions. the study of Brewer and Treyens confirmed Bartlett’s conclusion. Both of these studies can be referred to Gestalt Psychology. people are more inclined to remember the general outline rather than specific details and information– just like the participants did in Bartlett’s study. but for simplicity. 2 . only two conditions were used in this study: the words that produced maximum and minimum estimation of speed. In my simple experiment I have chosen to do a replication of Loftus and Palmer’s (1974) study to determine if leading questions have an influence on recall. H0: The choice of wording in the leading question will not have any influence on the participants' estimation of speed. "contacted" and "smashed". even though they were not actually present in the study. The hypothesis is that there will be a reconstruction in recall due to change of wording in the leading question.In 1981. According to Gestalt theories.e. and found that participants tended to remember objects that would logically fit into the rooms (i. Denmark. and whether estimation of speed could be manipulated also among students at the IB school. 2000). They tested memory for objects in a room. Nørre Gymnasium. (Boeree. an office). H1: The choice of wording in the leading question will influence the participants' estimation of speed.

The age of the participants was similar. contacted. 3 . Participants In this experiment there was no control group. the participants were less likely to be bored of the test or improve a skill that would lead to order effect. Also. The DV was the participants’ estimation of the car’s speed. no violations of APA ethic guidelines occurred while conducting this experiment. In order to avoid confounding variables. with an equal distribution of gender. The IB students were ideal for this experiment because of their fluency in English. The ethical guidelines where followed by letting all the participants sign consent form that informed the participants about the nature of the study. and the target population was International Baccalaureate students of both sexes of Nørre Gymnasium in Denmark. This enabled me to compare the responses of two different groups exposed to two different sets of conditions. The IV was the leading verb used in the critical question. Opportunity sampling was chosen for this experiment since it was the most convenient method. 20 participants were used (N=20). and the participants were constantly observed while performing the task. due to lack of repetition. which was necessary to ensure understanding of the verbs used in the questionnaire. bumped into. Also.METHOD Design As the most appropriate design for this experiment I chose the independent samples design. The experiment was conducted in a room. standardize briefing was given to all the participants. The age range was 16-18. and the mean was 17. and smashed into). collided with. including 20 participants (N=20). hit. and that their anonymity would remain protected. Also. and it was tested whether it would influence the participant’s estimation of speed of the car in the video (the verb s used were. The participants were told that withdrawing from the study with their data will be possible at any moment. since the IB program is international. They were not allowed to communicate with each other. 10 in each of the two groups. and helped to avoid demand characteristics. in order to avoid demand characteristics from the participants. the students came from many different countries and hence tested the population validity of the experiment. The questionnaire which they had to fill in contained various questions of which not all were relevant to our aim.

Finally. Answer any questions that arise from the participants. Then thank the participants for their participation and ask them to leave the room. one at a time. 4 . Read for them the standardized briefing instructions and then give a consent form to sign. do as following. play a short test run video. With each of those groups. For example. When all the participants have claimed to be finished collect all the questionnaires and read out the debriefing letter. Then assign a second identification number concerned with their experimental condition. by using the graphing utility. and give all the participants sufficient amount of time to finish it.Materials  A projection system and screen  Test run video  Car crush video  Debriefing letter including the standardized instructions  Five different types of four questionnaires. each concerning the video  A class roll  A graphing utility Procedure Divide 20 participants into two groups. give the participants the relevant questionnaire. In aim to ensure that every participant can see the video clearly. student 12 would be the second student assigned to condition 1. without feeling stressed. warn them that you will now show the car crash video. process the data and produce finalized results. and that it will only be shown once. with an equal distribution of males and females. When all the participants have claimed that they can see everything on the screen clearly. When the video is over. Ask the group to step into a quiet experimental testing location.

The calculated standard deviation confirms this. Table 1: Mean of speed estimates in each condition Mean Speed Estimate (MPH) reported by the participants 60 Experimental Condition Verb Phrase Used SD 1 Contacted & Hit 14. and shows that our results were consistent. one can notice that the speed estimate was higher by the participants who had the words "contacted" and "hit" in their leading question. The results also showed that the MPH of the condition 2 (81) was greater than the MPH of Condition 1 (60).RESULTS Glancing over the raw data.40 Figure 1: Graph of mean of speed estimates in each condition COMPARISON OF MEANS 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1 2 Experimental Condition 1 Experimental Condition 2 5 .14 2 Collided with & Smashed Into 81 16.

The results might have differed if brought about from more real-life situations. For instance. the students came from many different cultures. although the testing environment helped controlling the variables. by including some irrelevant questions in the questionnaire.01. The null hypothesis could therefore be rejected. between the speed estimate given from participants in each condition. In conclusion. Another idea could be to investigate what participants do to ensure themselves that their false memories are correct . In conclusion. This increased the ecological validity of the study. all the participants were IB students and so proper understanding of the words was guaranteed. the critical value for twotailed hypothesis is 18 and since the test statistic is much smaller than the critical value. Further research related to my experiment's topic could be testing the persistence of false memories. The experimental hypothesis was therefore supported and the null hypothesis rejected. the study shows that manipulated factors can have an effect on immediate formation of a memory.01. The results were positive. 6 . Furthermore. By using the Mann Whitney test as a statistical measure. the participants generally remembered the speed of the car but changed their attitudes due to the trigger words and caused different estimates due to the experience they had with the trigger words. it was calculated that the obtained results were highly significant. In my experiment. then the level of significance is P≤0. This could influence the participants' ability of properly estimating the car's speed. nor communicate with each other. Also. Also. Bartlett’s schema theory could explain why my results were similar to the ones obtained by Loftus and Palmer . and the study was successfully accomplished. However. My experiment contained several strengths and limitations. Additionally. a greater amount of participants should be involved. and have previous experience with car driving. If this experiment was to be repeated. this simple study tested whether certain wording could influence memory. by showing that there was a highly significant difference.all people have some kind of schema that automatically reconstructs memories and new information. and that EWT may therefore be unreliable.01 DISCUSSION The theory stated by Bartlett in 1932 says that schemas can influence recall. although some methodological limitations were perceived. it also decreased the ecological validity. This decreased the risk for order effect. stating that speed estimates changed depending on the wording in the leading question. my results agree with the Gestalt Psychology.Since the data was at least ordinal in the experiment and independent samples design was used testing a difference between two conditions. and the research hypothesis accepted at P≤0. the Mann Whitney U test was chosen to test the statistical significance of the results. According to the table of critical values of the Mann Whitney test. none of the participants had driving license or big experience with driving a car.if that is the case. where p≤0. the participants did not get to repeat the study. The results of my experiment support this theory. showing that people remember things in general terms. My experiment also corroborates the study by Loftus and Palmer (1974). Also. demand characteristics where avoided.

F.htlm Crane.ship. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. (1932). Cambridge University Press. Retrieved October 14. Memory and Forgetting. (2001). In The Science of Mind and Behaviour. Loftus. E. Psychology.edu/cgboer/gestalt. Gross. J. from Shippensburg University: http://webspace. (2000). R.C. Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology.. 13. J. Course Companion. 585-589 7 . J. (1974) Reconstruction of auto-mobile destruction: An example of interaction between language and memory. (2009). Gestalt Psychology. & Hannibal. 2010. Oxford: Oxford University Press. & Palmer. G. F.REFRENCES Bartlett. London: Hodder & Stoughon. Boeree .

and have the opportunity to find out the results at a later date. and will be analyzed only in the context of the research study. My anonymity will be protected as my name will not be identifiable. The research will be conducted so that I will not be demeaned in any way. I hereby give my informed written consent to participation in this study. am under no obligation to participate. and that any information about me will remain confidential. Name: Date: ____________________________________ ____________________________________ 8 . I understand I have the right to withdraw from the research at any time. My answers to the questionnaires will not affect my grades in any classes.Appendix 1 Consent Form       I have been informed about the nature of the study and the layout of the methods. I will be debriefed at the end. nor will any other identifying information be collected.

therefore please pay close attention to the video clip. to see if the video is clearly visible to each and every one. please refrain from any communication with your fellow participants. class. 9 . Participation in this study is completely optional. We will show you a small video clip and then you will be asked to complete a questionnaire regarding the video clip. If you have any questions about the study being taken place. please pay close undivided attention to this video clip. From this instant. please answer them honestly.com/watch?v=aAdZH7jvdqY ). we are currently studying psychology in the IB program. We are conducting a psychology Study as our assignment.youtube. Are there any questions? You are now required to sign a consent form as required by standard protocol before beginning the study. Thank you all for your participation. the results will be available to each and every participant. I will first run a test video. I am now going to play the main video (URL: http://www. Now I am going to pass the questionnaires.Appendix 2 Briefing notes Hey everyone. The questionnaire will not contain any questions regarding this test run video. When all the data is analyzed. As per standard protocol. all the participant’s personal details (name. age) will be kept confidential. I would be glad to answer them.

This small change in the wording is thought to have an effect on the response given. Every participant was given a questionnaire which seemed identical. 10 . The following verb phrases were used:      Experiment condition 1: contacted Experiment condition 2: Hit Experiment condition 3: bumped into Experiment condition 4: Collided with Experiment condition 5: Smashed into The speed estimates given by the participants was expected to increase from experiment condition 1 to 5.e. i. in simple terms.Appendix 3 Debriefing notes The study was meant to measure the effects of leading questions on the immediate formation of memory. Please contact me if you are interested in the results. can our memory be manipulated by using context cues in the questions. All the results will be made available to any interested participant. but in actuality there were 5 different questionnaires differing from each other by a single verb phrase.

x= ______ 225/25= ______ 107= ______ 70 x 4 = ______ 1 – (-3) = _____ 4 x 32= ______ 11 .Appendix 4 Filler task 5+5= ______ 843-64= ______ 10 x 353= ______ 33/x= 11.

) What gender are you? (please circle appropriately) Male Female How old are you?(please circle appropriately) 15 16 17 18 19 What grade are you in? 1.) 5. You are not obliged to answer any questions which may cause personal discomfort.) 6.g Do you use the car as transport regularly? Yes No What colour was the car in the accident? How many vehicles were involved in the accident? How fast was the car going when it contacted the other car? Were you ever involved in an accident? Yes No Have you ever witnessed a real life accident? Yes No Km/h 12 .) 3.) 7. 1.Appendix 5 Questionnaire Instructions: Please complete the survey given below with honest answers.) 8.) 9. All information collected from this survey is confidential.) 4.g 3.g 2.) 2. Do not indicate or write your name on this sheet.

Appendix 6 Raw data Table 1: Standard deviation for condition 1 Participant Speed estimates (km) Mean scores ̅ P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 P6 P7 P8 P9 P10 Total Mean 50 60 50 70 40 80 70 40 60 80 600 60 -10 0 -10 10 -20 20 10 -20 0 20 Square of mean scores ̅ 100 0 100 100 400 400 100 400 0 400 2000 13 .

Table 2: Standard deviation for condition 2 Participant Speed estimate Mean scores ̅ P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 P6 P7 P8 P9 P10 Total Mean 100 60 60 80 60 110 80 90 80 90 810 81 19 -21 -21 -1 -21 29 -1 9 -1 9 Square of mean scores ̅ 361 441 441 1 441 841 1 81 1 81 2690 14 .

5 1.40 T2= 137 19 7 7 14 7 20 14 17.5 14 17. Participant number Condition 1 (in km) P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 P6 P7 P8 P9 P10 Total Mean SD T 50 60 50 70 40 80 70 40 60 80 600 60 14.1) 3.5 10.5 7 14 Participant number Speed estimates.5 7 3.2) 73 137 15 .Speed estimates.14 T1= 73 Rank (gr.5 Rank (gr.5 1.5 14 10. Condition 2 (in km) P11 P12 P13 P14 P15 P16 P17 P18 P19 P20 100 60 60 80 60 110 80 90 80 90 810 81 16.

16 .025 127 0.05 105 0.01 19 By looking of the specific value for N=20. Thus.The results are significant to According to the critical values of Mann-Whitney U test for one tailed hypothesis N 20 0.01. This means that our data is significant not only at the but also . the experimental hypothesis is accepted and the null hypothesis is rejected at P≤0. one can see that the U value (18) is smaller than the given values .