Repetition, not number of sources, increases both susceptibility to misinformation and confidence in the accuracy of eyewitnesses

Foster, Jeffrey L.; Huthwaite, Thomas; Yesberg, Julia A.; Garry, Maryanne; Loftus, Elizabeth F.
Acta Psychologica

Are claims more credible when made by multiple sources, or is it the repetition of claims that matters? Some research suggests that claims have more credibility when independent sources make them. Yet, other research suggests that simply repeating information makes it more accessible and encourages reliance on automatic processes—factors known to change people’s judgments. In Experiment 1, people took part in a “misinformation” study: people first watched a video of a crime and later read eyewitness reports attributed to one or three different eyewitnesses who made misleading claims in either one report or repeated the same misleading claims across all three reports. In Experiment 2, people who had not seen any videos read those same reports and indicated how confident they were that each claim happened in the original event. People were more misled by—and more confident about—claims that were repeated, regardless of how many eyewitnesses made them. We hypothesize that people interpreted the familiarity of repeated claims as markers of accuracy. These findings fit with research showing that repeating information makes it seem more true, and highlight the power of a single repeated voice.