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The effect of props on child suggestibility in repeated interviews

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posted on 2023-05-27, 07:15 authored by Badcock, Roslyn M
Children often witness, or are themselves victims of, crime. However, their evidence is constantly questioned and disregarded in court due to perceived inabilities to accurately recall their memories. This study aims to investigate the role of props to enhance the accuracy of preschool children's recall for events. The role of props is also investigated with misleading suggestions and repeated interviews. It has been shown that children report only small amounts of information when asked to freely recall an event but this information has been found to be accurate (Ceci, Toglia & Ross, 1987). In contrast, children report more detail when objectively questioned · about an event, but this information may not be as accurate or reliable as their free recall (Ceci, Toglia & Ross, 1987). This pattern of recalling information is also found in adult populations; however, the amount of information retrieved increases as a function of age. Research has focussed on the processes of memory and developmental differences (Marin, Holmes, Guth & Kovac, 1979). The human memory of events is known to fade over a period of time (Goldmeier, 1982). The act of retrieving an event delays the fading effect (Flavell, 1985), although the memory trace is susceptible to the process of reconstruction (Goldmeier, 1982). Reconstruction refers to the importation of associated material into a memory trace from internal sources, such as expectation about whaf normally happens in a particular event, and from external sources such as misleading information (Goldmeier, 1982). Reconstruction in this sense has a negative effect on the memory trace. A number of possible causes for children's inferior memory have been suggested. (1) Children are described as wanting to please their questioners (McCloskey & Zaragoza, 1985). (2) The adult questioning the child is often perceived as the authority by the child (Ceci, Ross & Toglia, 1987). Children are likely to be inhibited by such individuals thus curbing their responses to questions. This has relevance when the child is asked misleading questions, for example in cross examination. Children are likely to doubt their own memories and trust the authoritative figure. (3) When children are repeatedly asked the same question they may change their response presuming the initial response was incorrect (Nelson, Dockrell & McKechnie, 1983). (4) Finally, it is presumed that children's memories may fade more quickly than adults thus predisposing them to accept misleading information (Loftus & Davies, 1984). Any combination of these factors may be present when children are questioned. Recent research has focussed on retrieval methods to enhance the recall of children and to eliminate the effects of misleading information. These techniques have endeavoured to reinstate the context of a witnessed event. Examples of these techniques include the cognitive interview (Geiselman Fisher, MacKinnon & Holland, 1986), physical reinstatement (Wilkinson, 1988) and the use of props (Goodman & Reed, 1986) to mentally reinstate the scene. Props have been found to interact with both accurate and inaccurate freely recalled information in young children (four and five year aids), but not necessarily three year olds(O'Callaghan & Sosic, 1993). However, this effect was not found in objective questioning, that is, props neither hindered nor enhanced children's recall. In addition central events appear to be more resilient in the human memory when compared to peripheral events (Goodman, Aman & Hirschman, 1987; Peters, 1987). Even though a developmental effect can be found for susceptibility to misleading suggestion, it appears that children, and adults alike, are able to resist misleading suggestion when directed at central events. Child eyewitnesses are subjected to multiple interviews by many professionals. Multiple interviews subject the memory to the effects of reconstruction (Goldmeier, 1982) and authoritarian influences leading to inaccurate memory retrieval (Ceci, Ross & Toglia, 1987). Children are also found to report additional information after a long delay following the first interview (Howe & Brainerd, 1989; Brainerd, 1985). It has been noted that this new information may be inaccurate or accurate. Such influences may be accountable for children's susceptibility to suggestion; however, the memory appears to be only weakened when questions are repeated in a single session but not neccesarily when an interview is repeated (Dent & Stephenson, 1979; Tucker, Mertin & Luszcz, 1990). This paper reviews current research and theory of children's memory and recall abilities. The provision of props to enhance recall is evaluated in conjunction with misleading suggestion and repeated interviews .


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Copyright 1992 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.Psych.)--University of Tasmania, 1994. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 58-65)

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