Critical that could be used in order to

Critical review: Wilson, K., &
French, C. C. (2014). Magic and memory: using conjuring to explore the effects
of suggestion, social influence, and paranormal belief on eyewitness testimony
for an ostensibly paranormal event.



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Wilson and
French (2014) conducted a study investigating the ‘effect of suggestion, social
influence and paranormal belief upon the accuracy of eyewitness testimony for
an ostensibly paranormal event’, which was based upon Wiseman and Greening’s
(2005) study. Their prime area of research was used to study connections in
perception and memory as they saw conjuring as an element that could be used in
order to study the human from a different perspective.


One hundred
and eighty undergraduates (144 were females and 36 were males) who had all
responded to a poster advertisement were used in the study, they were rewarded
with either £5 or a course credit. The study used a 2 x 3 x2 factorial design
‘with verbal suggestion (suggestion vs. No suggestion), social influence
(negative social influence vs. No social influence vs. Positive social
influence), and belief group (believers of the paranormal vs.
Non-believers)’.  Participants were asked
to watch a video where a psychic picked up a key and attempted to use
psychokinetic to bend the key to a 25-degree angle. The psychic used in the
study was a real magician who had been using the sleight of hand trick for a
long time. Participants in the suggestion condition heard the psychic say after
he had put the key den that it was still bending while in the no suggestion
condition the same video was used but the audio of the section in which the
psychic made the suggestion was removed.




 Within their study, it was hypothesized that
the participants who took part in the suggestion condition would be more likely
to say that that the key kept on bending compared to those in the no suggestion
condition. It was also assumed that those in the positive social influence
condition were more likely than those in no social influence to say that the
key did bend even after it was put down. Four different types of questionnaires
were used to record the participants’ answers and perception on what they
thought they saw from the trick. A Fixed Response Questionnaire (FRQ) which
included four questions with a third critical statement which was used as the
main dependent variable in the study. A Forced-Choice version of the Australian
Sheep-Gat Scale (ASGS) which consisted of 18 statements used to allocate
participants to their belief group. Dissociative Experience Scale (DES) is a
28-item self-report questionnaire while the Self-Monitoring Scale of Expressive
Behaviour is a 25-item true-false questionnaire which assessed how reliant participants
are on other people in social situations.



critique of research context

The research
conducted was made in 2014 which makes it more applicable as it captures a
modern day representation of the effects of art conjuring and how it is
affected by belief groups, social influence and verbal suggestion.


Wilson and
French’s reasoning for doing this research is on that can be considered as of
importance as it supports previous research with empirical evidence which is
crucial as it strengthens the argument proposed making it reliable. This type
of study is important for the field of interest as it helps provide and
explanation for reports of ostensibly paranormal experiences (OPEs) and also
gathers information on what links can be made with memory. This emphasizing the
need for the study as the topic of interest is one that is under-researched and
ignored as a lot of the research done into eyewitness testimonies resides
within forensic psychology.


At the
bottom of the article, Wilson and French explicitly stated in the ‘Conflict of
Interest Statement’ that the research was done objectively despite it being
reviewed by someone connected to the University of Goldsmiths. It stated that
there was no conflict of interest which would have affected the research in any
way lending more credibility to it as the result gained can be seen as more
trustworthy and unbiased.


review of the article as a whole

The article
clearly states where it stands in this field of work and what they are trying
to accomplish. This is conveyed through the title of the study, ‘Magic and
memory: using conjuring to explore the effects of suggestion, social influence,
and paranormal belief on eyewitness testimony for an ostensibly paranormal
event’, which allows the reader to precisely know what the research is about.
The introduction although very in-depth served a very well executed purpose of
laying the foundations of why the research conducted was being done and the
history and background of the topic in interest. This is shown coherently
through such things like how a lot of research has illustrated those eyewitness
testimonies are very unreliable and how in a forensic context it is not
acknowledges that witnesses are prone to discuss the event that happened which
is very likely to lead to a change in perception of the event or their
recollection of it (Gabbert et al 2003).


The use of
the large sample of one hundred and eighty participants makes the result
obtained more representative of the population and also means that errors from
testing on small samples are avoided. This means that they can have more
confidence in their results. The imbalance of the ratio of females (144
females) and males (36 males) can be assumed not to have a negative effect on the
study as the topic of interest is not largely affected by gender due to the
fact that it is to with recollection and perception. However, in order to
obtain the participants, the researchers had a poster advertisement for the
study which was what the participants responded to with them getting a positive
reward in return for their participation (either in the form of £5 or a course
credit). This reward may have led to the results that the researchers obtained
to have been influenced by demand characteristics.


Within the
study, the video watched by the participants was the same one used in Wiseman
and Greening’s (2005) study. This is significant as it allows for there to an
accurate comparison with both studies. The study also used a magician who had
been using the sleight of hand technique for many years adding to the realism
of the trick making it a positive attribute of the research.   The Fixed Response Questionnaires used was
the same one used in the original Wiseman and Greening (2005) study which allows
for a further comparison of both pieces of work. While the Australian
Sheep-Goat Scale was used over Belief in the Paranormal Questionnaire used by
Wiseman and Greening (2005) which was unstandardized due to the fact that it
holds more validity and reliability. The Dissociative Experience Scale was also
said to have good psychometric properties (Dubester and Braun, 1995) and
internal consistency (Norton et al., 1990). Participants in the study were
fully debriefed after the study allowing them to be able to give the autonomy
to be able to take their information of data out and let them know the true aim
behind the experiment.

In the study
the researchers showed how the interpretations of the results could be
problematic; Wiseman et al (2003) “it is unclear whether the verbal suggestion
directly affects participants memory of the event, their memory of the event,
or both”, they also added that the results could be due to demand
characteristics. Showing that they have identified potential sources that would
affect the results negatively, this allows them to be able to acknowledge the
flaw in their work that they cannot change.


The result
found in the study did support their hypothesis as participants in the verbal
suggestion condition were more likely to say that the key kept bending, this
was also found in the positive social influence condition than the other two
conditions. Believers were more likely to have reported that the key was
bending that disbelievers. Wilson and French made the suggestions that studies
conducted in the future should ask the participants what their explanation of
the trick was. They also proposed that researchers should have the key actually
ben in order to test whether disbelievers would still deny that the key kept on


significance of the research

The article
is a good contribution to the topic of interest as it uses reliable sources and
methods obtain the results they did and complements previous research
particularly that of Wiseman and Greenings (2005).