A reproducible systematic map of research on the illusory truth effect

Emma L. Henderson, Samuel J. Westwood, Daniel J. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People believe information more if they have encountered it before, a finding known as the illusory truth effect. But what is the evidence for the generality and pervasiveness of the illusory truth effect? Our preregistered systematic map describes the existing knowledge base and objectively assesses the quality, completeness and interpretability of the evidence provided by empirical studies in the literature. A systematic search of 16 bibliographic and grey literature databases identified 93 reports with a total of 181 eligible studies. All studies were conducted at Western universities, and most used convenience samples. Most studies used verbatim repetition of trivia statements in a single testing session with a minimal delay between exposure and test. The exposure tasks, filler tasks and truth measures varied substantially across studies, with no standardisation of materials or procedures. Many reports lacked transparency, both in terms of open science practices and reporting of descriptive statistics and exclusions. Systematic mapping resulted in a searchable database of illusory truth effect studies (https://osf.io/37xma/). Key limitations of the current literature include the need for greater diversity of materials as stimuli (e.g., political or health contents), more participants from non-Western countries, studies examining effects of multiple repetitions and longer intersession intervals, and closer examination of the dependency of effects on the choice of exposure task and truth measure. These gaps could be investigated using carefully designed multi-lab studies. With a lack of external replications, preregistrations, data and code, verifying replicability and robustness is only possible for a small number of studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1065-1088
Number of pages24
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Illusory truth effect
  • Registered report
  • Repetition
  • Systematic map
  • Transparency
  • Truth judgement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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