Can confidence help account for and redress the effects of reading inaccurate information?

Nikita A. Salovich*, Amalia M. Donovan, Scott R. Hinze, David N. Rapp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Being exposed to inaccurate information in fiction can negatively influence post-reading judgments and decisions. For example, people make more errors judging the validity of statements after reading stories containing related inaccurate as compared to related accurate assertions. While these effects have been demonstrated in a variety of studies, people’s confidence in their post-reading judgments has received little attention. The current experiments examined whether exposure to accurate and inaccurate information embedded in fiction influences readers’ confidence in judging the validity of related claims. Participants read an extended story containing accurate and inaccurate assertions about the world (Experiment 1a) or a control story omitting those assertions (Experiment 1b). Afterwards they judged the validity of single statements related to the critical assertions and provided confidence ratings for each judgment. While participants made more judgment errors after having read inaccurate assertions than after having read accurate assertions or stories without assertions, they were overall less confident in their incorrect as compared to correct judgments. Given the observed relationship between confidence and judgment accuracy, in Experiments 2 and 3 we tested whether allowing and instructing participants to withhold responses might reduce judgment errors. This withholding option reduced participants’ incorrect and correct judgments, failing to specifically eliminate the negative consequences of exposure to inaccurate assertions. These findings are discussed with respect to accounts documenting the influence of inaccurate information, and highlight confidence as a relevant but understudied factor in previous empirical demonstrations of such effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-310
Number of pages18
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Confidence
  • Inaccurate information
  • Judgments
  • Metacognition
  • Reading comprehension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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