Children's Suggestibility and Memory. Primary Reference. Malloy & Quas (2009) Children’s Suggestibility: Areas of Consensus and Controversy. In K. Kuehnle & M. Connel (Eds.), The Evaluation of Child Sexual Abuse Allegations (pp. 267-297). Wiley . . What is suggestibility?.
Presidential Politics 2008!
A 4-year-old boy and his 2-year-old sister debate who would be the best president
The Attack on the Interviewer
The interview excerpts that follow demonstrate highly suggestive and leading questioning.
However, the preschooler that was being interviewed was NOT a highly suggestible preschooler!
Q Did Kelly have hair? [referring to privates]
A Nah, I know ‘cause it’s grown ups . . . I know about that.
Q So I guess that means you saw her private parts, huh? Did Kelly ask the kids to look at her private parts, or to kiss her private part or . . .
A I didn’t really do that . . . I didn’t even do that.
QBut she made you.
QDid it smell good? (referring to Kelly’s privates)
QHer private parts?
AI don’t know.
QDid it taste good? Did it taste like chocolate?
AHa, ha. No, I didn’t even do it . . .
QYou Wee Care kids seem so scared of her.
AI wasn’t. I’m not even. . .
QBut while you were there, were you real scared?
AI don’t know.
QWhat was so frightening about her, what was so scary about her?
AI don’t know. Why don’t you ask her?
YES. Some children are suggestible—at least under certain circumstances
Adults are, too—but generally less so than children under 10 or 11
FACTORS THAT AFFECT CHILDREN’S SUGGESTIBILITY
Are school-aged children and adults able to recall events that occurred when they were under 3 years old?
Ceci et al. (2007). Unwarranted assumptions about children’s testimonial accuracy. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology.
The Problem with
“Yes/no” and Multiple Choice Questions
Example: Assume that the child previously told the interviewer that Roger touched her pee-pee, but she has never alleged that Roger did anything else to her . . .
Did Roger lick your pee-pee, too? (Yes/no)
Were you in your bedroom or in Roger’s room when Roger touched your pee-pee? (Multiple choice)
In general, about one-third of the questions asked by forensic interviewers are option-posing questions
Only about 6% of CSA investigators’ questions are open-ended invitations (i.e., “Tell me more about that”)
This is true even though children’s responses to open-ended questions are generally far more accurate!
QDid anyone touch your pee pee?
Q. Well, take a guess
“Pretend this doll is you and pretend that doll is your uncle; and show me what they might do together”
5 & 6 year-olds
3 & 4 year-olds
When children said they did not know who ripped the book or got the teddy bear dirty, they were asked:
“Who might have ripped the book/gotten the teddy bear dirty?”
Kids are not required to tell the truth in all situations, i.e., playing games, telling stories, casual conversations
Kid’s don’t assume that telling the truth is important in all situations
“Of the 3- and 4-year-olds who were not exposed to repetitive and highly leading questions or stereotypes about the ‘offender,’ and who were not asked to “guess” answers, 90% were still accurate after three months.”
In the Mousetrap study, very young children were repeatedly:
Told about non-events
Shown pictures of non-events
Encouraged to “think real hard” about and visualize these non-events and what it would be like to experience them
Repeatedly asked (leading) questions about the non-events
Bruck et al. (1995). Anatomically detailed dolls do not facilitate preschoolers’ reports of a pediatric examination involving genital touching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied