Critical review: Wilson, K., &French, C. C. (2014).
Magic and memory: using conjuring to explore the effectsof suggestion, social influence, and paranormal belief on eyewitness testimonyfor an ostensibly paranormal event. SummaryWilson andFrench (2014) conducted a study investigating the ‘effect of suggestion, socialinfluence and paranormal belief upon the accuracy of eyewitness testimony foran ostensibly paranormal event’, which was based upon Wiseman and Greening’s(2005) study. Their prime area of research was used to study connections inperception and memory as they saw conjuring as an element that could be used inorder to study the human from a different perspective. One hundredand eighty undergraduates (144 were females and 36 were males) who had allresponded to a poster advertisement were used in the study, they were rewardedwith 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 socialinfluence), and belief group (believers of the paranormal vs.
Non-believers)’. Participants were askedto watch a video where a psychic picked up a key and attempted to usepsychokinetic to bend the key to a 25-degree angle. The psychic used in thestudy was a real magician who had been using the sleight of hand trick for along time.
Participants in the suggestion condition heard the psychic say afterhe had put the key den that it was still bending while in the no suggestioncondition the same video was used but the audio of the section in which thepsychic made the suggestion was removed. Within their study, it was hypothesized thatthe participants who took part in the suggestion condition would be more likelyto say that that the key kept on bending compared to those in the no suggestioncondition. It was also assumed that those in the positive social influencecondition were more likely than those in no social influence to say that thekey did bend even after it was put down. Four different types of questionnaireswere used to record the participants’ answers and perception on what theythought they saw from the trick.
A Fixed Response Questionnaire (FRQ) whichincluded four questions with a third critical statement which was used as themain dependent variable in the study. A Forced-Choice version of the AustralianSheep-Gat Scale (ASGS) which consisted of 18 statements used to allocateparticipants to their belief group. Dissociative Experience Scale (DES) is a28-item self-report questionnaire while the Self-Monitoring Scale of ExpressiveBehaviour is a 25-item true-false questionnaire which assessed how reliant participantsare on other people in social situations. Criticalreview Generalcritique of research contextThe researchconducted was made in 2014 which makes it more applicable as it captures amodern day representation of the effects of art conjuring and how it isaffected by belief groups, social influence and verbal suggestion. Wilson andFrench’s reasoning for doing this research is on that can be considered as ofimportance as it supports previous research with empirical evidence which iscrucial as it strengthens the argument proposed making it reliable.
This typeof study is important for the field of interest as it helps provide andexplanation for reports of ostensibly paranormal experiences (OPEs) and alsogathers information on what links can be made with memory. This emphasizing theneed for the study as the topic of interest is one that is under-researched andignored as a lot of the research done into eyewitness testimonies resideswithin forensic psychology. At thebottom of the article, Wilson and French explicitly stated in the ‘Conflict ofInterest Statement’ that the research was done objectively despite it beingreviewed by someone connected to the University of Goldsmiths.
It stated thatthere was no conflict of interest which would have affected the research in anyway lending more credibility to it as the result gained can be seen as moretrustworthy and unbiased. Criticalreview of the article as a wholeThe articleclearly states where it stands in this field of work and what they are tryingto accomplish. This is conveyed through the title of the study, ‘Magic andmemory: using conjuring to explore the effects of suggestion, social influence,and paranormal belief on eyewitness testimony for an ostensibly paranormalevent’, which allows the reader to precisely know what the research is about.The introduction although very in-depth served a very well executed purpose oflaying the foundations of why the research conducted was being done and thehistory and background of the topic in interest. This is shown coherentlythrough such things like how a lot of research has illustrated those eyewitnesstestimonies are very unreliable and how in a forensic context it is notacknowledges that witnesses are prone to discuss the event that happened whichis very likely to lead to a change in perception of the event or theirrecollection of it (Gabbert et al 2003). The use ofthe large sample of one hundred and eighty participants makes the resultobtained more representative of the population and also means that errors fromtesting on small samples are avoided. This means that they can have moreconfidence in their results. The imbalance of the ratio of females (144females) and males (36 males) can be assumed not to have a negative effect on thestudy as the topic of interest is not largely affected by gender due to thefact that it is to with recollection and perception.
However, in order toobtain the participants, the researchers had a poster advertisement for thestudy which was what the participants responded to with them getting a positivereward in return for their participation (either in the form of £5 or a coursecredit). This reward may have led to the results that the researchers obtainedto have been influenced by demand characteristics. Within thestudy, the video watched by the participants was the same one used in Wisemanand Greening’s (2005) study. This is significant as it allows for there to anaccurate comparison with both studies. The study also used a magician who hadbeen using the sleight of hand technique for many years adding to the realismof the trick making it a positive attribute of the research. The Fixed Response Questionnaires used wasthe same one used in the original Wiseman and Greening (2005) study which allowsfor a further comparison of both pieces of work. While the AustralianSheep-Goat Scale was used over Belief in the Paranormal Questionnaire used byWiseman and Greening (2005) which was unstandardized due to the fact that itholds more validity and reliability. The Dissociative Experience Scale was alsosaid to have good psychometric properties (Dubester and Braun, 1995) andinternal consistency (Norton et al.
, 1990). Participants in the study werefully debriefed after the study allowing them to be able to give the autonomyto be able to take their information of data out and let them know the true aimbehind the experiment.In the studythe researchers showed how the interpretations of the results could beproblematic; Wiseman et al (2003) “it is unclear whether the verbal suggestiondirectly affects participants memory of the event, their memory of the event,or both”, they also added that the results could be due to demandcharacteristics. Showing that they have identified potential sources that wouldaffect the results negatively, this allows them to be able to acknowledge theflaw in their work that they cannot change. The resultfound in the study did support their hypothesis as participants in the verbalsuggestion condition were more likely to say that the key kept bending, thiswas also found in the positive social influence condition than the other twoconditions. Believers were more likely to have reported that the key wasbending that disbelievers.
Wilson and French made the suggestions that studiesconducted in the future should ask the participants what their explanation ofthe trick was. They also proposed that researchers should have the key actuallyben in order to test whether disbelievers would still deny that the key kept onbending. Thesignificance of the research The articleis a good contribution to the topic of interest as it uses reliable sources andmethods obtain the results they did and complements previous researchparticularly that of Wiseman and Greenings (2005).