Enlightenment beats prejudice: the reversibility of stereotype-induced memory distortion

Hartmut Blank, Lauren Rutter, Rebecca Armstrong

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Social stereotypes impact how we remember people, but how stable is this influence? Inspired by the reversibility of the eyewitness misinformation effect through post-warnings about the planting of misinformation (‘enlightenment’), we explored if stereotype influence on person memory can be similarly reversed. Participants read person self-descriptions and subsequently answered memory test questions either with or without stereotype labels, establishing sizeable stereotype-induced memory distortion. One week later, the participants answered the same questions again, but half were enlightened about the earlier stereotype manipulation. This eliminated the stereotype effect and restored memory for the original information, whereas memory remained distorted without enlightenment. We discuss implications for memory distortion research and for (undermining) the self-perpetuation of stereotypes in society.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Early online date2 Jan 2019
Publication statusEarly online - 2 Jan 2019


  • person memory
  • reversibility
  • warning
  • social stereotypes


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