Pilgrims sailing the Titanic: Plausibility effects on memory for misinformation

Scott R. Hinze, Daniel G. Slaten, William S Horton, Ryan Jenkins, David Neil Rapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


People rely on information they read even when it is inaccurate (Marsh, Meade, & Roediger, Journal of Memory and Language 49:519-536, 2003), but how ubiquitous is this phenomenon? In two experiments, we investigated whether this tendency to encode and rely on inaccuracies from text might be influenced by the plausibility of misinformation. In Experiment 1, we presented stories containing inaccurate plausible statements (e.g., "The Pilgrims' ship was the Godspeed"), inaccurate implausible statements (e.g.,... the Titanic), or accurate statements (e.g., . . . the Mayflower). On a subsequent test of general knowledge, participants relied significantly less on implausible than on plausible inaccuracies from the texts but continued to rely on accurate information. In Experiment 2, we replicated these results with the addition of a think-aloud procedure to elicit information about readers' noticing and evaluative processes for plausible and implausible misinformation. Participants indicated more skepticism and less acceptance of implausible than of plausible inaccuracies. In contrast, they often failed to notice, completely ignored, and at times even explicitly accepted the misinformation provided by plausible lures. These results offer insight into the conditions under which reliance on inaccurate information occurs and suggest potential mechanisms that may underlie reported misinformation effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-324
Number of pages20
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • False memory
  • Memory
  • Text processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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