Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Tracy L. Morris.
A significant amount of recent research in the area of children's eyewitness memory has been aimed at examining children's vulnerability to suggestion. Numerous experimental factors have been found to impact children's suggestibility including the use of leading questions. However, research in this area has yet to investigate whether characteristics of the child play a role in susceptibility to suggestion. Accordingly, the present study was designed to combine the experimental and individual differences approaches to research to achieve a better understanding of children's susceptibility to suggestive questioning techniques. Ninety-six 9--12-year-old children and a parent participated in the study. Children viewed a brief videotaped anger scenario between male and female adult actors. Following a 20-minute delay, children were interviewed by a male or female research assistant regarding their recollections of the adult interaction. This interview included a: (1) free recall task, (2) series of prompted, open-ended questions, and (3) series of specific non-leading or leading questions. In addition, children and parents completed several questionnaires designed to assess attention, social anxiety, aspects of temperament, and assertiveness. Results indicated that while children provided limited amounts of information in response to the free and prompted recall interviews, their reports were highly accurate. Furthermore, children's free and prompted recall reports were more accurate for certain types of information including the statements made by the actors. Exposure to incorrectly leading questions had a negative impact on accuracy of recall, thereby supporting the notion that the inclusion of leading questions leads to suggestibility. Attention, assertiveness, and social anxiety were not found to be significant predictors of suggestibility. Taken together, the results emphasize the importance of employing non-suggestive questions when interviewing children about witnessed events.
Bartlett, Robin Myers, "Individual differences and suggestibility of children's eyewitness memory reports" (2000). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 1180.