Resisting misinformation via discrepancy detection: effects of an unaware suspicion cue

Rona Sheaffer, Rotem Gal, Ainat Pansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have shown that contaminating effects of misinformation can be reduced by consciously raising the awareness of eyewitnesses to the discrepancy between the misinformation and the original information (e.g., Tousignant, J. P., Hall, D., & Loftus, E. F. [1986]. Discrepancy detection and vulnerability misleading postevent information. Memory & Cognition, 14(4), 329–338. doi:10.3758/BF03202511). We tested whether similar effects could be obtained without conscious awareness, by drawing on the metaphor “something smells fishy” linking fishy smells and suspicion (Lee, S. W. S., & Schwarz, N. [2012]. Bidirectionality, mediation, and moderation of metaphorical effects: The embodiment of social suspicion and fishy smells. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(5), 737–749. doi:10.1037/a0029708). In a pilot study, we established the replicability and generality of previous findings concerning this metaphorical link. We then examined the effects of the smell-suspicion link on susceptibility to misleading post-event information using the misinformation paradigm. Here, the “something smells fishy” metaphor was used to invoke suspicion and increase discrepancy detection. Forty-eight hours after viewing an event, participants received misinformation in a room sprayed with either a fishy or a neutral smell. As expected, unaware exposure to the fishy smell (compared to the neutral smell) increased discrepancy detection (measured indirectly) and resistance to the contaminating effects of misinformation, eliminating misinformation interference and lowering suggestibility on the final test.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-705
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Misinformation effect
  • discrepancy detection
  • false memory
  • suggestibility
  • suspicion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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