The Relationship Between Memory and Questioning

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The Relationship Between Memory and Questioning

Over the years, researchers have investigated how the misinterpretation of a question can affect an individual's memory. A number of studies were conducted, which focused on the impact question wording, design, suggestibility, and prior experiences have had on a person's ability to recall information. This topic is important to scientific scholars because the results could determine how they phrase their questions for future studies. Perhaps, the reason many studies have been inconclusive is due to poor responses given by participants who misinterpreted the question. This review will present various theories and conclusions based upon a collection of prior research reports.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2002), the term "memory" is defined as, "senses relating to the action or process of commemorating, recollecting, or remembering." Studies have shown that the way questions are worded and the format in which they are presented can cause distortion of memory and inaccuracy of reports.

The participant must be able to clearly comprehend the literal meaning of key words (Schwarz, 1999; Winkielman et al., 1998). Schwarz (1999) discussed the effectiveness of three specific formats including open/closed responses, frequency scales, and rating scales. When distributing such self-report measures, it is important for the researcher to keep in mind that a true informational value is not assigned for each response option. This may result in a response that is estimated or guessed, which is certainly useless when trying to support a hypothesis.

Semin and DePoot (1997) conducted a study that focused on deriving similarly worded questions, but different verb usage. It was predicted that people would respond differently to the two questions. The first study instructed college students to create their own narrative by writing detailed past events that they could recall. The answers varied and were manipulated in the...