Memory for flip-flopping: Detection and recollection of political contradictions
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During political campaigns, candidates often change their positions on controversial issues. Does changing positions create confusion and impair memory for a politician's current position? In 3 experiments, two political candidates held positions on controversial issues in two debates. Across the debates, their positions were repeated, changed, or held only in the second debate (control). Relative to the control condition, recall of the most recent position on issues was enhanced when change was detected and recollected, whereas recall was impaired when change was not recollected. Furthermore, examining the errors revealed that subjects were more likely to intrude a Debate 1 response than to recall a blend of the two positions, and that recollecting change decreased Debate 1 intrusions. We argue that detecting change produces a recursive representation that embeds the original position in memory along with the more recent position. Recollecting change then enhances memory for the politician's positions and their order of occurrence by accessing the recursive trace.
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