Metacognitive Effects of Initial Question Difficulty on Subsequent Eyewitness Memory Performance

Shiri Portnoy, Ainat Pansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we examined the influence of initial question difficulty on the confidence in the answers to subsequent questions, affecting the tendency of eyewitnesses to report them. Target questions of intermediate difficulty about event details were preceded by either difficult or easy questions. In contrast to forced-report performance, free-report performance was affected by initial question difficulty: When preceded by difficult questions, more answers to the target questions were confidently held and hence were more likely to be reported, yielding a larger quantity of correct reported answers. These findings demonstrate how changes in subjective experience, as a result of initial question difficulty, can influence metacognitive monitoring and control, thereby affecting free-report eyewitness memory performance. From an applied perspective, our findings suggest that preceding questions about a witnessed event by relatively difficult as opposed to relatively easy questions can yield more event information from eyewitnesses, resulting in more complete eyewitness reports.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition


  • Confidence
  • Eyewitness memory
  • Free-report memory performance
  • Metacognition
  • Monitoring and control
  • Relative fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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