Social Anxiety and Memory Conformity in Eyewitnesses

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Abry, Alexandra
Eyewitness; Memory; Conformity; Social Avoidance; Photo Recognition; Personality
thesis / dissertation description
Two experiments examined memory conformity in an eyewitness context where it can have devastating effects. The aim of these experiments was to determine whether state anxiety (Experiment 1) and trait anxiety (Experiment 2) affect memory conformity. Experiment 1 revealed that state anxiety was resistant to influence from a one-way mirror in the context of an identification decision, precluding a test of state anxiety's effect on memory conformity in this context. Experiment 2 examined anxiety as a dispositional variable by testing the differential effects of social avoidance on memory conformity. In the first phase, participants completed a measure of social anxiety and viewed 60 photographs of faces. Later that week, participants were paired and asked to look through 120 photos and indicate whether the photos were old (previously seen) or new (previously unseen). Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: no motivation, monetary incentive, or forced unanimity. In the no motivation condition, participants were not given any instructions beyond the basic task instructions. Participants in the monetary incentive condition were told that the most accurate participant would receive a cash reward, and participants in the forced unanimity condition were told that they would have to engage in a face-to-face discussion to resolve discrepant answers, should any occur. Overall, socially avoidant participants conformed significantly less than non-socially avoidant participants, and conformity rates were significantly higher in the forced unanimity condition than in the no-motivation and monetary incentive conditions.