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Memory Errors in Police Interviews: The Bait Question as a Source of Misinformation

Journal article
Authors Timothy Luke
William E. Crozier
Deryn Strange
Published in Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Volume 6
Issue 3
Pages 260-273
ISSN 22113681
Publication year 2017
Published at
Pages 260-273
Language en
Keywords Bait questions, Interrogation, Interviewing, Memory, Memory errors, Misinformation, Misinformation effect, Reid Technique
Subject categories Law, Psychology


© 2017 Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition Bait questions—where an investigator questions a suspect about the existence of hypothetical evidence—are a widely employed interviewing tactic. We examined whether these bait questions are a vehicle for misinformation to enter a criminal case, leading mock jurors to misremember the evidence. Adapting the misinformation effect paradigm, participants read a police report describing several pieces of evidence, then watched a police interview including bait questions that provided misleading information about the collected evidence. In Studies 1 and 2, participants’ memory for evidence they were misled about was significantly less accurate than control evidence. Indeed, participants came to believe the hypothetical evidence proposed in the bait questions actually existed. In Studies 3 and 4, participants read warnings—varying in their specificity—about the misleading bait questions. These warnings were ineffective at mitigating the misinformation effect. Bait questions may, therefore, be a source of error in juror's decision-making, leading to wrongful convictions.

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