How do readers handle incorrect information during reading?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


How do readers deal with information that is inconsistent with what they know? This question has typically been addressed by examining whether carefully designed texts can help readers revise inaccurate beliefs. However, texts sometimes present incorrect information that runs counter to readers' accurate knowledge. Three experiments were performed to examine how individuals process incorrect information during reading. Participants read stories describing familiar historical scenarios. These scenarios included historically accurate or inaccurate outcomes. The scenarios also included contexts that either supported accurate outcomes or utilized suspense to call into question the likelihood of those events. Overall, participants took longer to read inaccurate outcomes than to read accurate outcomes, but suspenseful contexts attenuated this difference. This pattern held even with a task that encouraged readers to consider their prior knowledge. Story contexts were particularly influential when modified to present novel scenarios. These results provide insight into the role of prior knowledge when readers encounter incorrect information, and into the consequences of such experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-701
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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