Seeing photos makes us read between the lines: The influence of photos on memory for inferences

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Three studies examined how photos accompanying stories could contribute to people drawing inferences about outcomes from the stories and subsequently claiming that they had read what had actually only been inferred. Subjects read short stories designed to induce inferences about their conclusions (e.g., “Sabrina dropped the delicate vase” invites the inference that the vase broke) accompanied by a photo depicting the likely conclusion (the broken vase), a photo depicting a detail of the story but not the conclusion (the vase before it was dropped), or no photo. Results showed that seeing photographs consistent with inferred conclusions led people to falsely claim that they read those conclusions. Photo-boosted inferences were held with high confidence and were robust over time. Falsely recalled inferences were sometimes accompanied by false claims to have seen a photo depicting the inferred events when another photo or no photo had actually be seen. These findings support the source monitoring framework's prediction that people can mistakenly attribute their internally generated inferences about what occurred to externally derived sources when they have photographic “evidence” consistent with the inferred conclusions.


Copyright 2012 The Experimental Psychology Society

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Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

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Henkel, L. A. (2012). Seeing photos makes us read between the lines: The influence of photos on memory for inferences. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(4), 773-795. doi:10.1080/17470218.2011.628400.



Peer Reviewed