Using the regulation of accuracy to study performance when the correct answer is not known
We examined memory performance in multiple-choice questions when correct answers were not always present. How do participants answer when they are aware that the correct alternative may not be present? To answer this question we allowed participants to decide on the number of alternatives in their final answer (the plurality option), and whether they wanted to report or withhold their answer (report option). We also studied the memory benefits when both the plurality and the report options were available. In two experiments participants watched a crime and then answered questions with five alternatives. Half of the questions were presented with the correct alternative and half were not. Participants selected one alternative and rated confidence, then selected three alternatives and again rated confidence, and finally indicated whether they preferred the answer with one or with three alternatives (plurality option). Lastly, they decided whether to report or withhold the answer (report option). Results showed that participants’ confidence in their selections was higher, that they chose more single answers, and that they preferred to report more often when the correct alternative was presented. We also attempted to classify a posteriori questions as either presented with or without the correct alternative from participants’ selection. Classification was better than chance, and encouraging, but the forensic application of the classification technique is still limited since there was a large percentage of responses that were incorrectly classified. Our results also showed that the memory benefits of both plurality and report options overlap. Key words: Metamemory, eyewitness memory, plurality option, report option.