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The effect of props on child suggestibility in repeated interviews

Badcock, Roslyn M 1992 , 'The effect of props on child suggestibility in repeated interviews', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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 .

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Badcock, Roslyn M
Keywords: Child witnesses, Memory in children, Children
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.Psych.)--University of Tasmania, 1994. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 58-65)

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