Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • Katherine Puddifoot


Eyewitnesses are susceptible to recollecting that they experienced an event in a way that is consistent with false information provided to them after the event. The effect is commonly called the misinformation effect. Because jurors tend to find eyewitness testimony compelling and persuasive, it is argued that jurors are likely to give inappropriate credence to eyewitness testimony, judging it to be reliable when it is not. It is argued that jurors should be informed about psychological findings on the misinformation effect, to ensure that they lower the credence that they give to eyewitness testimony to reflect the unreliability of human memory that is demonstrated by the effect. Here I present a new argument, the overcritical juror argument, to support the conclusion that eyewitnesses are likely to make inappropriate credence assignments to eyewitness testimony. Whereas previously authors have argued that jurors will tend to give too much credence to eyewitness testimony, I identify circumstances in which jurors will give too little credence to some pieces of testimony. In my view jurors should be informed by psychological findings relating to the misinformation effect to ensure that they do not lower the credence that they give to eyewitness testimony when they should not.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Available formats


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author


Hide All
Addis, D. R., Sacchetti, D. C., Ally, B. A., Budson, A. E. and Schacter, D. L. 2009. ‘Episodic Simulation of Future Events is Impaired in Mild Alzheimer's Disease.’ Neuropsychologia, 47: 2660–71.
Alfano, M. 2013. Character as Moral Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Assefi, S.L. and Garry, M. 2002. ‘Absolute Memory Distortions: Alcohol Placebos Influence the Misinformation Effect.’ Psychological Science, 14: 7780.
Bartlett, F. C. 1932. Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Belli, R. F. and Loftus, E. F. 1994. ‘Recovered Memories of Childhood Abuse: A Source Monitoring Perspective.’ In Lynn, S. J. and Rhue, J. W. (eds), Dissociation: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives, pp. 415–33. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Berman, G. L. and Cutler, B. L. 1996. ‘Effects of Inconsistencies in Eyewitness Testimony on Mock-juror Decision Making.’ Journal of Applied Psychology, 81: 170–7.
Berman, G. L., Narby, D. J. and Cutler, B. L. 1995. ‘Effects of Inconsistent Eyewitness Statements on Mock-jurors’ Evaluations of the Eyewitness, Perceptions of Defendant Culpability and Verdicts.’ Law and Human Behavior, 19: 7988.
Bond, C. F. and DePaulo, B. M. 2006. ‘Accuracy of Deception Judgments.’ Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10: 214–34.
Borckardt, J. J., Sprohge, E. and Nash, M. 2003. ‘Effects of the Inclusion and Refutation of Peripheral Details on Eyewitness Credibility.’ Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33: 2187–97.
Brainerd, C. J. and Reyna, V. F. 2002. ‘Fuzzy-trace Theory and False Memory.’ Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(5): 164–9.
Brigham, J.C. and Bothwell, R.K. 1983. ‘The Ability of Prospective Jurors to Estimate the Accuracy of Eyewitness Identifications.’ Law and Human Behavior, 7(1): 1930.
Busby, J. and Suddendorf, T. 2005. ‘Recalling Yesterday and Predicting Tomorrow.’ Cognitive Development, 20(3): 362–72.
D'Argembeau, A. and van der Linden, M. 2004. ‘Phenomenal Characteristics Associated with Projecting Oneself Back into the Past and Forward into the Future: Influence of Valence and Temporal Distance.’ Consciousness and Cognition, 13: 844–58.
De Brigard, F. 2014. ‘Is Memory for Remembering? Recollection as a Form of Episodic Hypothetical Thinking.’ Synthese, 191(2): 155–85.
De Brigard, F. and Giovanello, K. S. 2012. ‘Influence of Outcome Valence in the Subjective Experience of Episodic Past, Future and Counterfactual Thinking.’ Consciousness and Cognition, 21(3): 1085–96.
Deese, J. 1959. ‘On the Prediction of Occurrence of Particular Verbal Intrusions in Immediate Recall.’ Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58(1): 1722.
Dewhurst, S. A., Thorley, C., Hammond, E. R. and Ormerod, T. C. 2011. ‘Convergent, but not Divergent, Thinking Predicts Susceptibility to Associative Memory Illusions.’ Personality and Individual Differences, 51(1): 73–6.
Dodd, D. H. and Bradshaw, J. M. 1980. ‘Leading Questions and Memory: Pragmatic Constraints.’ Journal of Memory and Language, 19(6): 695.
Ekman, P. and O'Sullivan, M. 1991. ‘Who can Catch a Liar?American Psychologist, 46: 913–20.
Gabbert, F., Memon, A., Allan, K. and Wright, D. B. 2004. ‘Say it to My Face: Examining the Effects of Socially Encountered Misinformation.’ Legal and Criminological Psychology, 9(2): 215–27.
German, T. and Nichols, S. 2003. ‘Children's Counterfactual Inferences about Long and Short Causal Chains.’ Developmental Science, 6: 514–23.
Goldman, A. I. 1979. ‘What is Justified Belief?’ In Justification and Knowledge, pp. 123. Amsterdam: Springer.
Hassabis, D., Kumaran, D., Vann, S. D. and Maguire, E. A. 2007. ‘Patients with Hippocampal Amnesia Cannot Imagine New Experiences.’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 104: 1726–31.
Hatvany, N. and Strack, F. 1980. ‘The Impact of Discredited Key Witness.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 10: 490509.
Hemmer, P. and Steyvers, M. 2009. ‘Integrating Episodic and Semantic Information in Memory for Natural Scenes.Proceedings 31st Annual Conference Cognitive Science Society, 1557–62.
Howe, M.L. and Knott, L.M. 2015. ‘The Fallibility of Memory in Judicial Processes: Lessons from the Past and their Modern Consequences.’ Memory, 23(5): 633–56.
Howe, M. L., Garner, S. R., Dewhurst, S. A. and Ball, L. J. 2010. ‘Can False Memories Prime Problem Solutions?Cognition, 117(2): 176–81.
Johnson, M. K. 1988. ‘Discriminating the Origin of Information.’ In Oltmanns, T. F. and Maher, B. A. (eds), Delusional Beliefs, pp. 3465. New York, NY: Wiley.
Klein, S. 2013. ‘The Temporal Orientation of Memory: It's Time for a Change of Direction.’ Journal of Research in Applied Memory and Cognition, 2: 222–34.
Klein, S. B., Loftus, J. and Kihlstrom, J. F. 2002. ‘Memory and Temporal Experience: The Effects of Episodic Memory Loss on an Amnesic Patient's Ability to Remember the Past and Imagine the Future.’ Social Cognition, 20: 353–79.
Laney, C. and Loftus, E. F. 2017. ‘Eyewitness Testimony and Memory Biases.’ In Biswas-Diener, R. and Diener, E. (eds), Noba Textbook Series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF Publishers.
Levine, T. R., Kim, R. K. and Hamel, L. M. 2010. ‘People Lie for a Reason: Three Experiments Documenting the Principle of Veracity.’ Communication Research Reports, 27(4): 271–85.
Lindsay, D.S. 1994. ‘Memory Source Monitoring and Eyewitness Testimony.’ In Ross, D. F., Read, J. D. and Toglia, M. P. (eds), Adult Eyewitness Testimony: Current Trends and Developments, pp. 2755. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Loftus, E. F. 2005. ‘Planting Misinformation in the Human Mind: A 30-year Investigation of the Malleability of Memory.’ Learning and Memory, 12: 361–6.
Loftus, E.F. and Palmer, J.C. 1974. ‘Reconstruction of Automobile Destruction: An Example of the Interaction Between Language and Memory.’ Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 13(5): 585–9.
Loftus, E. F., Miller, D. G. and Burns, H. J. 1978. ‘Semantic Integration of Verbal Information into a Visual Memory.’ Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 4(1): 1931.
Meissner, C. A. and Kassin, S. M. 2004. ‘'You're Guilty, so Just Confess!' Cognitive and Confirmational Biases in the Interrogation Room.’ In Lassiter, G. D. (ed.), Interrogations, Confessions, and Entrapment, pp. 85106. New York, NY: Kluwer.
Melo, B., Winocur, G. and Moscovitch, M. 1999. ‘False Recall and False Recognition: An Examination of the Effects of Selective and Combined Lesions to the Medial Temporal Lobe/Diencephalon and Frontal Lobe Structures.’ Cognitive Neuropsychology, 16: 343–59.
Michaelian, K. 2011. ‘Generative Memory.’ Philosophical Psychology, 24(3): 323–42.
Michaelian, K. 2013. ‘The Information Effect: Constructive Memory, Testimony, and Epistemic Luck.’ Synthese, 190(12): 2429–56.
Michaelian, K. 2016a. Mental Time Travel: Episodic Memory and our Knowledge of the Personal Past. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Michaelian, K. 2016b. ‘Confabulating, Misremembering, Relearning: The Simulation Theory of Memory and Unsuccessful Remembering.’ Frontiers in Psychology, 7(1857): 113.
Mitchell, K.J. and Johnson, M.K. 2000. ‘Source Monitoring: Attributing Mental Experiences.’ In Tulving, E. and Craik, F. I. M. (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Memory, pp. 179–95. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Mitchell, K. J. and Zaragoza, M. S. 1996. ‘Repeated Exposure to Suggestion and False Memory: The Role of Contextual Variability.’ Journal of Memory and Language, 35(2): 246–60.
Montmarquet, J. 1987. ‘Epistemic Virtue.’ Mind, 96: 482–97.
Montmarquet, J. 1993. Epistemic Virtue and Doxastic Responsibility. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
Neisser, U. 1967. Cognitive Psychology. New York, NY: Appleton.
Okado, Y. and Stark, C.E.L. 2005. ‘Neural Activity During Encoding Predicts False Memories Created by Misinformation.’ Learning and Memory, 12: 311.
Okuda, J., Fujii, T., Ohtake, H., Tsukiura, T., Tanji, K., Suzuki, K., Kawashima, R., Fukuda, H., Itoh, M and Yamadori, A. 2003. ‘Thinking of the Future and the Past: The Roles of the Frontal Pole and the Medial Temporal Lobes.’ Neuroimage, 19: 1369–80.
Puddifoot, K. and Bortolotti, L. 2018. ‘Epistemic Innocence and the Production of False Memory Beliefs.’ Philosophical Studies, 126. doi: 10.1007/s11098-018-1038-2.
Robins, S. K. 2016. ‘Misremembering.’ Philosophical Psychology, 29(3): 432–47.
Roediger, H. L. and McDermott, K. B. 1995. Creating false memories: Remembering words not presented in lists. Journal of experimental psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 21 (4): 803814.
Rosenbaum, R. S., Gilboa, A., Levine, B., Winocur, G. and Moscovitch, M. 2009. ‘Amnesia as an Impairment of Detail Generation and Binding: Evidence from Personal, Fictional, and Semantic Narratives.’ Neuropsychologia, 47: 2181–87.
Schacter, D. L. and Addis, D. R. 2007. ‘The Cognitive Neuroscience of Constructive Memory: Remembering the Past and Imagining the Future.’ Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 362: 773–86.
Schacter, D. L., Verfaille, M. and Pradere, D. 1996. ‘The Neuropsychology of Memory Illusions: False Recall and Recognition in Amnesic Patients.’ Journal of Memory and Language, 35: 319–34.
Schacter, D. L., Verfaellie, M. and Anes, M. D. 1997. ‘Illusory Memories in Amnesic Patients: Conceptual and Perceptual False Recognition.’ Neuropsychology, 11(3): 331.
Schacter, D. L., Addis, D. A. and Buckner, R. L. 2007. ‘Remembering the Past to Imagine the Future: The Prospective Brain.’ Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 8(9): 657.
Schacter, D. L., Guerin, S. A., and St. Jacques, P. L. 2011. ‘Memory Distortion: An Adaptive Perspective.’ Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(10): 467–74.
Schmechel, R. S., O'Toole, T. P., Easterly, C. and Loftus, E. F. 2006. ‘Testing Jurors’ Understanding of Eyewitness Reliability Evidence.’ Jurimetrics, 46: 177214.
Seniuk, G. T. 2013. ‘Credibility Assessment, Common Law Trials and Fuzzy Logic.’ In Applied Issues in Investigative Interviewing, Eyewitness Memory, and Credibility Assessment, pp. 1930. New York, NY: Springer.
Shanton, K. and Goldman, A. 2010. ‘Simulation Theory.’ Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1(4): 527–38.
Smith, V. L. and Ellsworth, P. C. 1987. ‘The Social Psychology of Eyewitness Accuracy: Misleading Questions and Communicator Expertise.’ Journal of Applied Psychology, 72(2): 294300.
Stein, E. 2003. ‘The Admissibility of Expert Testimony about Cognitive Science Research on Eyewitness Identification.’ Law, Probability and Risk, 2(4): 295303.
Suddendorf, T. and Corballis, M. C. 1997. ‘Mental Time Travel and the Evolution of the Human Mind.’ Genetic Social and General Psychology Monographs, 123: 133–67.
Suddendorf, T. and Corballis, M. C. 2007. ‘The Evolution of Foresight: What is Mental Time Travel and is it Unique to Humans?Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30: 299313.
Sutton, J. 1998. Philosophy and Memory Traces: Descartes to Connectionism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sutton, J. 2009. ‘Adaptive Misbeliefs and False Memories.’ Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32(6): 535–6.
ten Brinke, L. and Porter, S. 2013. ‘Discovering Deceit: Applying Laboratory and Field Research in the Search for Truthful and Deceptive Behavior.’ In Applied Issues in Investigative Interviewing, Eyewitness Memory, and Credibility Assessment, pp. 221–37. New York, NY: Springer.
Tousignant, J. P., Hall, D. and Loftus, E. F. 1986. ‘Discrepancy Detection and Vulnerability to Misleading Postevent Information.’ Memory and Cognition, 14(4): 329–38.
Tulving, E. 1985. ‘Memory and Consciousness.’ Canadian Psychology, 26: 112.
Underwood, J. and Pezdek, K. 1998. ‘Memory Suggestibility as an Example of the Sleeper Effect.’ Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 5(3): 449–53.
Van Hoeck, N., Ma, N., Ampe, L., Baetens, K., Vandekerckhove, M. and Van Overwalle, F. 2012. ‘Counterfactual Thinking: An fMRI Study on Changing the Past for a Better Future.’ Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8(5): 556–64.
Vornik, L., Sharman, S. and Garry, M. 2003. ‘The Power of the Spoken Word: Sociolinguistic Cues Influence the Misinformation Effect.’ Memory, 11(1): 101–9.
Williams, J. M., Ellis, N. C., Tyers, C., Healy, H., Rose, G. and MacLeod, A. K. 1996. ‘The Specificity of Autobiographical Memory and Imageability of the Future.’ Memory and Cognition, 24: 116–25.
Wilson, A. E. and Ross, M. 2003. ‘The Identity Function of Autobiographical Memory: Time is on our Side.’ Memory, 11(2): 137–49.
Wise, R.A., Fishman, C.A. and Safer, M.A. 2009. ‘How to Analyze the Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony in a Criminal Case.’ Connecticut Law Review, 42(2): 435513.
Zagzebski, L. 1996. Virtues of the Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zaragoza, M. S. and Lane, S. M. 1998. ‘Processing Resources and Eyewitness Suggestibility.’ Legal and Criminological Psychology, 3(2): 305–20.
Zaragoza, M. S. and Mitchell, K. J. 1996. ‘Repeated Exposure to Suggestion and the Creation of False Memories.’ Psychological Science, 7(5): 294300.
Zaragoza, M. S., Belli, R. F. and Payment, K. E. 2007. ‘Misinformation Effects and the Suggestibility of Eyewitness Memory.’ In Garry, M. and Hayne, H. (eds), Do Justice and let the Sky Fall: Elizabeth Loftus and her Contributions to Science, Law, and Academic Freedom, pp. 3563. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO


  • Katherine Puddifoot


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.