Jump to content
The Education Forum

When A Lie Becomes The Truth


Shanet Clark
 Share

Recommended Posts

Recently I wrote a short paper about research into lying witnesses, and whether lying hurts the ability to tell the truth later. I posted some of it on the Chauncey Holt thread. This has a little technical language, but the theme is clear: scripted and lying witnesses degrade their own ability to accurately remember the truth. With so many false witnesses, scripted stories and "changes of heart" I thought this outline of Dr. Pickel's MEMORY article would help us to understand the psychology of lying witnesses, and their ability to tell the truth later.

Based on the article-

When a Lie Becomes the Truth:

The Effects of Self-Generated Misinformation on Eyewitness Testimony

By Keri Pickel, Memory, January 2004

“Presumably it is more difficult to fabricate a plausible and convincing lie that is consistent with everything the individual knows … than it is to tell the truth”

Summary of Abstract

Review of Literature

Key Terms:

Misinformation Effect,

Source Monitoring Errors

Retrieval Blocking

Hypothesis: Lying Blocks or Corrupts the Accurate Memory of an Event’s Details

Methodology of 1st Experiment

123 Psychology Students, Mainly White Females

4 Conditions: 1) Truth. 2) No Rehearsal. 3) Lies about Clerk. 4) Lies about Assailant.

All Shown a Security Film, Immediately Pre-tested (by Condition, some Lie) for Recall

Post-tested Again One Week Later for Accurate Recall of Details from Film

Results of 1st Experiment

Truth Group-Most Correct Details, Fewest Incorrect Details

Lied About Assailant Group- Fewest Correct Details, Most Incorrect Details

Moderating Variable Groups, (No Rehearsal and Lied about Clerk), Fell Between Extremes

The question remains, is there a difference between self-generated misinformation and prompted or scripted misinformation in the subsequent accuracy of recall?

Methodology of 2nd Experiment

112 Psychology Students, Mainly White Females

3 Conditions: 1) Truth. 2) Lies about Assailant 3) Lies about Assailant Using A Script

Same basic protocol, Film, Pre-Test, Post-Test One Week Later for Accurate Recall

Results of 2nd Experiment

Truth Group– Recalled the Most Correct Details & Fewest Incorrect Details

Scripted Misinformation Group– Least Correct Details, Most Incorrect Details

Self Generated Misinformation Group– Similar to Scripted Group, Slightly Better Recall

Results and Discussion: Hypothesis Supported

Emphasis on Source Monitoring Errors, Retrieval Blocking, Misinformation Effect

Experiment Two

Control Group – Told the Truth in Both the Pre-Test and the Post-Test

Fabrication Group -- Generated False Misinformation in the Pre-Test

Attempted to Tell Details Accurately In the Post-Test Given One Week Later

Prepared Fabrication Group – Followed False Script In Pre-Test

Attempted to Tell Details Accurately In Post-Test One Week Later

Main Results of Experiment Two:

Both the Scripted and Self-Generated Misinformation Groups

Reported Fewer Correct and More Incorrect Details Than the Truth (Control) Group

General Conclusions:

Inventing a False Description or Relying on a Scripted False Description of an Event

Will Decrease a Witnesses Ability to Remember Accurate Details about that Event

Why?

The Retrieval Blocking Hypothesis Would Indicate that the Act of Generating False Information Interferes Later With the Ability to Access Correct Data

The Lack of Rehearsal Time Immediately after the Event is a Factor

Source Monitoring Error, Where the Source of A Memory is Recalled, Is a Factor

Source Monitoring Has Been Shown To Be a Hasty and Imperfect Process

In Real Life, The Author Believes this Recall Difficulty is Magnified:

One, The Criminal Is Likely to Be Highly Motivated to Lie

Two, The Criminal Has Time to Create More Realistic Details, Details

Which Have Been Shown To Be More Readily Confused With the Actual Details

Three, In a Police Interrogation Situation, The Act of Repeating False Details Makes Retrieval of Accurate Details Later Even Less Likely

Real Life Applications:

Criminal Justice, Police and National Security Efforts

Juvenile Courts, Assistant Principals, Counselors and Teachers

Overall, The Study Establishes that Lying Corrupts Memory and Some False Details Will Subsequently Be Believed to be True, Making Even Repentant Liars Poor Witnesses

Edited by Shanet Clark
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Overall, The Study Establishes that Lying Corrupts Memory and Some False Details Will Subsequently Be Believed to be True, Making Even Repentant Liars Poor Witnesses

[[ posted on Compuserve in June '96 by:

Mike Sylwester (email address??) ]]

======================================================================

---------------- Marilyn Sitzman testimony ---------------------------

Josiah Thompson's (author of "Six Seconds in Dallas")

interview with Marilyn Sitzman, the woman who held

Abraham Zapruder while he was filming the motorcade.

Transcript of tape recording. Transcript in Zapruder

file at Assassination Research Center, Washington DC.

SIX SECONDS IN DALLAS (p. 102) identifies this interview

as having taken place on November 29, 1966.

Ellipses as in original transcript.

----------------------------------------------

Thompson: I'm talking to Marilyn Sitzman. Marilyn

Sitzman was standing on the concrete pedestal with

Abraham Zapruder. . . then after the

head shot, the car disappeared under the underpass?

Sitzman: Uh huh. And I got off the concrete slab we

were standing on, and I ran down the hill, and I met some

men from across the street, and I took it for granted

that they were Secret Service or CIA or something like

that; and they asked me what happened, and I said, "they

killed him." And I walked back up the hill, and I talked

to an FBI man up there that did identify himself to me,

but I don't recall his name, and then I walked back

behind the marble thing there, not behind it, but back

inside.

Thompson: Inside the alcove.

Sitzman: And I looked out the back. Everybody was

running back that way. Everybody ran up the hill and

back and looked out that way.

Thompson: And where did they run? Did they run back

into the railroad yard or into the parking lot?

Sitzman: Some ran ... I mean ... I finally got back up

to the alcove. There was bunches of people just swarming

back there, and I think almost everybody on that hill ran

back up that way. And another thing that I remember this

day: there was a colored couple. I figure they were

between 18 and 21, a boy and a girl, sitting on a bench,

just almost, oh, parallel with me, on my right side,

close to the fence.

Thompson: In other words, between you and the fence,

there's a tree right next to the ...

Sitzman: There's a tree, and there's another part of the

marble or concrete, whatever they call it, slab, fence,

whatever they call it, between that and the wooden fence. . . . And they were eating their lunch, 'cause they

had little lunch sacks, and they were drinking coke. The

main reason I remember 'em is, after the last shot I

recall hearing and the car went down under the triple

underpass there, I heard a crash of glass, and I looked

over there, and the kids had thrown down their coke

bottles, just threw them down and just started running

towards the back and I ... Of course, I don't see

anything unusual in that because everybody else was

running that way, 'cause when I look over on my left

side, the people on the hill were all running back the

same way too.

Thompson: Uh huh. Uh huh. Did you see any peculiar

vehicles or people in the area that's been called the

grassy knoll, in the parking lot area behind the fence or

behind the pergola?

Sitzman: Well, there were a lot of cars in the parking

lot. There always is. It's the parking lot for the

Texas School Depository.

Thompson: Was it pretty well packed that day with cars?

Sitzman: That day and every day.

Thompson: Uh huh.

Sitzman: It's always full, because the people ... I'm

not too sure whose lot it is. If it's part of the

railroad company or the Texas School Depository or what,

but it's always filled.

Thompson: Could I ask you something about your gaze and

actions immediately after the head shot? On the trailer

of Mr. Zapruder's film, we noticed that he turned to his

right and photographed the general area of the stockade

fence, the trees and the stockade fence and that

particular area. Did you turn in that direction after

the head shot too?

Sitzman: In a way, I have a feeling this: He might have

heard the kids throw down the coke bottles and heard that

crash or else maybe it was just what he saw could have

caused a reaction where he'd jump, but I don't think it

was the sound of bullets, because I didn't jump.

Thompson: No.

Sitzman: Because the pop bottle crashing was much louder

than the shots were.

Thompson: No, this is a slightly different thing. I

remarked earlier that in the Zapruder film, around frame

318, 319, we see a very sudden jiggle in the film as if

the photographer was startled by a noise or by seeing

something, and earlier you suggested ... well, what did

you suggest?

Sitzman: Well, seeing what we saw when the bullet hit

Kennedy's head and it opening up like this, you don't

stand there very calmly and do nothing. I'm sure ... it

... to me, it would be a normal reaction to kind of jump

or something.

Thompson: In other words, one would be startled by what

one saw there rather than necessarily by what one heard.

Sitzman: Sure, sure. If you're the type of person that

would react that way. Some would just immediately

freeze. Some people would ... Some women would've

probably passed out, some ... rather bloody ....

Thompson: Darn right. I know. I've seen the films too.

Now, to get to this area between the stockade fence and

the cement abutment, or small mall: Did you turn after

the shot to look in this general area?

Sitzman: Yes.

Thompson: And did you see anyone in this area?

Sitzman: No, just the two colored people running back.

Thompson: I see. They were already ... they'd gotten up

from the bench and were now running around into the gap

made between the stockade fence and the pergola.

Sitzman: Either in the gap there or back in the alcove.

I don't recall which way they went. I saw ... I heard

the bottles crash, and of course I looked that way, to my

right, right away, and they were getting up and running

towards the back. And I turned back to see if there was

anything in the front street, because then they didn't

affect me one way or another.

Thompson: To see if anything else was going on. Had you

seen them sitting on the bench before you stood next to

them?

Sitzman: Oh year, yes. Everybody is ... oh, ten or

fifteen minutes before, everybody was milling around down

there, trying to find a place to stand and everything,

and I know when we went over to get up on the marble

thing, they were already sitting there.

Thompson: Well, did you notice at any point whether

either of these two moved up to the end of the, to the

point of the wall?

Sitzman: No. They may have. I don't know.

Thompson: Of course, you were looking at the parade at

that point, and you wouldn't have seen what they did.

Sitzman: Yeah. I always have the feeling that they were

still sitting on the bench, because when I looked over

there, they were getting up from the bench.

Thompson: Marilyn, I've showed you this picture, which

is approximately Nix frame 24, the famous frame which

shows what some people believe to be a vehicle with a man

on top of it. We discussed this earlier, and I take it

to be your definite and certain opinion that if there was

a vehicle there it was not out in this plateau area.

Sitzman: That's correct. This is one thing that you

couldn't miss.

Thompson: Right.

Sitzman: Because it's not that large an area back there,

and if there'd been a car back there, especially with

someone on top of it, you just don't over look it.

Thompson: Right, right. No, I agree. So, whatever this

be, whether it be a vehicle, whatever it is, you feel

quite certain it's back of the pergola, back of the line

joining the periphery of the pergola with the stockade

fence. It's shoved back of this bush, in other words,

which appears both in this ...

Sitzman: I know what you're saying, but I still can't

say it.

Thompson: I can't figure out how to say ... in other

words ...

Sitzman: I can't say that there was ... I can't say ...

I can't see how any picture could take a picture of a car

back there. It'd have to be up on stilts. That fence is

rather high.

Thompson: Yeah. By fence, you mean the cement wall.

Sitzman: Sure, the cement wall and the fence, and this

picture, remember this picture is taken from a downhill

angle looking up, so it's even going to have to be higher

than a five-foot fence.

Thompson: Actually, this is taken from about the same

elevation from quite a distance over, the other side of

Main Street.

Sitzman: Oh, I see.

Thompson: With a telescopic lens. So you're quite

certain that whatever this be, and we're making no

decision as to what it is, it's back in that parking

area, not in the plateau area bounded by the stockade

fence on one side, by the cement wall on the other and by

the pergola and the line joining the pergola and the

stockade fence on the other.

Sitzman: That's right.

Thompson: Yeah, I must ... gee, I must say I sure agree

with you on that. That seems quite clear. One other

question I'd like to ask concerns your building itself.

You mentioned that a great number of people were looking

out of windows and sitting on fire escapes.

Sitzman: Uh huh.

Thompson: Do you happen to know whether people were on

the upper floors, on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors

looking out?

Sitzman: I know about the fourth and fifth, because

that's the floors we occupied. I don't know about the

sixth, seventh, or two, three and four ... I mean two

and three. But I'm sure that if our factory people were

looking out there, there'd probably be people from the

other people's factory, because there's a lot ... we have

an awful lot of older women that work in factories that

just didn't feel like walking all the way down there and

back again. And you only get 30 minutes for lunch. And

you get quite a good view of Houston Street from up

there, and I'm sure they felt they could see just as much

sitting in the windows on the fire escape watching.

Thompson: Well ... you do ... we talked about the roof

of this building There's a water tower up there, and it

is possible to get access to that from the roof.

Sitzman: I'm sure it is.

Thompson: That day, you don't recall police going around

into the different factory offices of offices of the

factory people?

Sitzman: No, no.

Thompson: So what I told you about this unidenti ...

[sic] or this identified man who was found with no

business in the building: that would indicate he was

found somewhere in the hallways or out in the ...

Sitzman: It's possible or else it's possible the police

did go through there, and I may not have been back to the

building by then, or else I may have been back in one of

the back rooms and not paid any attention.

Thompson: Sure, sure.

Sitzman: There was a ... there was thousands of people

coming out of that building after I got back there.

There was reporters, there were just people from the

street I remember coming up and asking questions.

Thompson: Is there anything else you'd like to add to

this at this point? Anything that you think would be of

relevance to us as we go on and try to pursue leads and

...

Sitzman: No, not really.

Thompson: O.K. Well, thank you very, very much.

[sitzman leaves. Thompson talks into tape recorder]

Thompson: I want to add a kind of afterword to the

Marilyn Sitzman interview. I asked Marilyn whether she

recalled a telephone conversation with Mr. Jones Harris.

She said she recalled that conversation, and then I

related to her what Harris had told me, namely that she

had heard a shot coming from her right, that it was

rather close and that the, her right ear was ringing from

the sound of the shot long after the explosions had died

down.

She said that she didn't recall telling Mr. Harris any

such thing. She was rather surprised when I told her

this. She said this was absolutely not the case and that

on at least eight different occasions said that, pointed

out that there was a similarity between the sound of the

shots. If she had to guess from which direction they

came, she would have guessed to her left, but there was

no distinction in direction of the sound or magnitude of

sound with respect to the two shots.

My general opinion of Marilyn Sitzman is that first of

all that what she told me is the truth. She in no way

seemed to be sensitive to particular areas of the case.

She seemed to be relating quite forthrightly what she had

seen. She's a rather loose, friendly girl, personable

and very easy to talk to and get along with.

I must say that in the background of all the people that

one talks to at the Zapruder factory, one gets the

impression that they would be very unhappy to have

anything turn up at this point that would lead to the

re-opening of the case and further questions. They're

tired of all the questioning and frankly wish it would

all end. This applies especially to Mr. Abraham Zapruder

...

[end]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Recently I wrote a short paper about research into lying witnesses, and whether lying hurts the ability to tell the truth later.  I posted some of it on the Chauncey Holt thread.  This has a little technical language, but the theme is clear: scripted and lying witnesses degrade their own ability to accurately remember the truth.  With so many false witnesses, scripted stories and "changes of heart" I thought this outline of Dr. Pickel's MEMORY article would help us to understand the psychology of lying witnesses, and their ability to tell the truth later.

Based on the article-

When a Lie Becomes the Truth:

The Effects of Self-Generated Misinformation on Eyewitness Testimony

By Keri Pickel, Memory, January 2004

“Presumably it is more difficult to fabricate a plausible and convincing lie that is consistent with everything the individual knows … than it is to tell the truth”

Summary of Abstract

Review of Literature

Key Terms:

Misinformation Effect,

Source Monitoring Errors

Retrieval Blocking

Hypothesis: Lying Blocks or Corrupts the Accurate Memory of an Event’s Details

Methodology of 1st Experiment

123 Psychology Students, Mainly White Females

4 Conditions: 1) Truth. 2) No Rehearsal. 3) Lies about Clerk. 4)  Lies about Assailant.

All Shown a Security Film, Immediately Pre-tested (by Condition, some Lie) for Recall

Post-tested Again One Week Later for Accurate Recall of Details from Film

Results of 1st Experiment

Truth Group-Most Correct Details, Fewest Incorrect Details

Lied About Assailant Group- Fewest Correct Details, Most Incorrect Details

Moderating Variable Groups, (No Rehearsal and Lied about Clerk), Fell Between Extremes

The question remains, is there a difference between self-generated misinformation and prompted or scripted misinformation in the subsequent accuracy of recall?

Methodology of 2nd Experiment

112 Psychology Students, Mainly White Females

3 Conditions: 1) Truth. 2) Lies about Assailant 3) Lies about Assailant Using A Script

Same basic protocol, Film, Pre-Test, Post-Test One Week Later for Accurate Recall

Results of 2nd Experiment

Truth Group– Recalled the Most Correct Details & Fewest Incorrect Details

Scripted Misinformation Group– Least Correct Details, Most Incorrect Details

Self Generated Misinformation Group– Similar to Scripted Group, Slightly Better Recall

Results and Discussion: Hypothesis Supported

Emphasis on Source Monitoring Errors, Retrieval Blocking, Misinformation Effect

Experiment Two

Control Group – Told the Truth in Both the Pre-Test and the Post-Test

Fabrication Group -- Generated False Misinformation in the Pre-Test

Attempted to Tell Details Accurately In the Post-Test Given One Week Later

Prepared Fabrication Group – Followed False Script In Pre-Test

Attempted to Tell Details Accurately In Post-Test One Week Later

Main Results of Experiment Two:

Both the Scripted and Self-Generated Misinformation Groups

Reported Fewer Correct and More Incorrect Details Than the Truth (Control) Group

General Conclusions:

Inventing a False Description or Relying on a Scripted False Description of an Event

Will Decrease a Witnesses Ability to Remember Accurate Details about that Event

Why?

The Retrieval Blocking Hypothesis Would Indicate that the Act of Generating False Information Interferes Later With the Ability to Access Correct Data

The Lack of Rehearsal Time Immediately after the Event is a Factor

  Source Monitoring Error, Where the Source of A Memory is Recalled, Is a Factor

Source Monitoring Has Been Shown To Be a Hasty and Imperfect Process

In Real Life, The Author Believes this Recall Difficulty is Magnified:

One, The Criminal Is Likely to Be Highly Motivated to Lie

Two, The Criminal Has Time to Create More Realistic Details, Details

Which Have Been Shown To Be More Readily Confused With the Actual Details

Three, In a Police Interrogation Situation, The Act of Repeating False Details Makes Retrieval of Accurate Details Later Even Less Likely

Real Life Applications:

Criminal Justice, Police and National Security Efforts

Juvenile Courts, Assistant Principals, Counselors and Teachers

Overall, The Study Establishes that Lying Corrupts Memory and Some False Details Will Subsequently Be Believed to be True, Making Even Repentant Liars Poor Witnesses

__________________________-

Very interesting study Shanet. I see this in my work as a criminal defense attorney. When someone is lying and does so consistently in hopes of avoiding a serious felony conviction the person who repeats the lie often appears to even believe it him/herself. I saw this about a year ago in a case, a 24 year old women was accused of a very serious violent offense. She was well id'd by the victim, but had conned a younger female to attempt to take the rap. I remember every visit I had with the defendant the more "convincing" she seemed to become. (Even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary). It often appeared to me that she had, at some level, actually convinced herself of her lies by consistantly repeating them.

I suspect this person will go through life continually denying this offense. Sex offenders are similar. This is the one offense where the perp. almost always denies the allegation. Again, even in the face of terribly compelling evidence, such as DNA.

I am watching the Laci Peterson case very closely and found it fascinating to watch all the interviews Scott gave to the press. Consistent with another study about a person's behavior when lying, Scott would say something that appeared to be fabricated and, while speaking, shift the focus of his eyes downward. Interesting that he did not take the stand.

Dawn

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Witnesses not only stick to the story and appear to believe it, they really cannot recall the facts when they want to. They don't really believe that all their lies were true, but they no longer can access the truthful version--it has become corrupted. They were busy thinking up a lie and didn't preserve the memory the way honest witnesses did. Repetition makes this worse.

Thanks for the feedback, I think these type of psych studies have been done for years by the agencies and kept classified, it is only now that publicly available studies like this are coming out........it has a big impact on understanding things like the testimony of Braden, Files, Arce, Greer, the medical forensics witnesses, and the various accused "tramps"........ Holt, Abrams, Hunt, Sturgis and Harrelson. Marina Oswald is another one who needs to be observed through this analytical lens.

Shanet

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...