Asking simultaneously about truth and familiarity may disrupt truth effects

Teresa Garcia-Marques, Rita R. Silva, Joana Mello


Tell me something that sounds familiar and I will believe it to be true. This is a statement that we should believe because it summarizes a well-documented and empirically supported effect: the illusion of truth effect (see Dechêne, Stahl, Hansen, & Wänke, 2010 for a review). The fact is we are more likely to believe a statement if we have been previously exposed to it (e.g., Bacon, 1979; Hasher, Goldstein, & Toppino, 1977). Repetition increases truth-value generating the illusion that repeated statements are more valid than information we never heard or read before.

A general assumption of the explanations of the truth effect is that the subjective experience of processing a familiar statement is interpreted as informing about the validity of the statement (see Dechêne et al, 2010). This implies that a process of misattribution underlies repetition’s effect on judgments of truth (e.g., Bornstein & D’Agostino, 1994; Mandler, Nakamura, & Van Zandt, 1987; Schwarz, & Clore, 1983).

In this paper we present an experiment that tests such misattribution process by making more or less explicit the real source of the feeling of familiarity with statements. In this way we test whether illusions of truth decrease when it is clear (vs. unclear) that familiarity is due to previous exposure.


Illusions of truth, Repetition, Memory, Misattribution.


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