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Issues of Suggestibility & Court. Overview. What is suggestibility? Research – past & present Lessons Learned Preparing for court Defending your interview. Suggestibility. ( Gilstrap & Ceci , 2005). Traditional definition:

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Issues of Suggestibility & Court


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    1. Issues of Suggestibility & Court

    2. Overview • What is suggestibility? • Research – past & present • Lessons Learned • Preparing for court • Defending your interview

    3. Suggestibility (Gilstrap& Ceci, 2005) Traditional definition: “…the extent to which individuals come to accept and subsequently incorporate post-event information into their memory recollections…” ALTHOUGH…

    4. Suggestibility (Gilstrap& Ceci, 2005) “…there are many instances in which suggestibility reduces report accuracy not through actual changes in memory but merely because children may acquiesce to false suggestions made by the interviewer…”

    5. Some of the Research on Suggestibility FIRST WAVE RESEARCH

    6. FIRST WAVE RESEARCHClown Study (Rudy & Goodman, 1991) • Pairs of 4 & 7yo children were left in a trailer with an unfamiliar adult. • One child played Simon Says, was photographed dressed in a clown suit, and thumb-wrestled with the adult • Another child watched this interaction • 10 - 12 days later, the children were individually asked open-ended, direct, and misleading questions about the event

    7. FIRST WAVE RESEARCHClown Study (Rudy & Goodman, 1991) Findings: • Misleading, abuse related questions resulted in only one false abuse “report” • A 4YO observer falsely confirmed that he and the participant were spanked

    8. FIRST WAVE RESEARCHPhysical Exam Study (Saywitz, Goodman, & Moan, 1991) • 72 girls ages 5 and 7 • standard check-up + vaginal and anal exam • standard non-genital check-up + scoliosis exam • Children questioned after 1 or 4 weeks • free recall, direct, and misleading questions including some abuse related: “How many times did the doctor kiss you?” • anatomical dolls were also used

    9. FIRST WAVE RESEARCHPhysical Exam Study (Saywitz, Goodman, & Moan, 1991) Findings Genital exam group: • genital/anal touch frequently unreported in free recall • more children reported with direct questions Scoliosis exam group: • no false reports from 7YOs • no false reports in response to free recall • 5YOs • direct questions = three commission errors • misleading, abuse related questions = four errors

    10. Effects of Stereotyping & Suggestive QuestionsSECOND WAVE RESEARCH

    11. SECOND WAVE RESEARCH Sam Stone Study (Leichtman & Ceci, 1995) 176 three to six-year-old children • Four groups • “Sam Stone” has visited classroom Suggestion Group: • Shown evidence (ripped book & soiled teddy bear) • Repeated interviews using forced-choice, suppositional, and misleading questions • “Who ripped the book?…Who do you think might have…” • “When Sam got the bear dirty, was he wearing long or short pants?”

    12. SAM STONE STUDY (Leichtman& Ceci, 1995) Stereotype Group: • Prior to visit, children were told of 12 different stereotyping events: • Sam was was very clumsy • Sam broke things that belonged to others Stereotype & Suggestion Group: • Both suggestive questions after Sam’s visit and the stereotyped messages prior

    13. SAM STONE STUDY (Leichtman& Ceci, 1995) Control Group: • No stereotypes or suggestive questions were used until the final interview Event: • 2 minute classroom visit from “Sam Stone” • Sam was not clumsy nor did he break anything • Sam was introduced, commented on a story, walked around, and left • All children were repeatedly interviewed  

    14. SAM STONE STUDY (Leichtman& Ceci, 1995) Findings: • No false reports when control group asked to tell about Sam’s visit • Despite multiple manipulation techniques, children overall were more accurate than not • Age 3-4 less accurate (72%) than 5-6 (86%) • Stereotypes (83%), suggestive questions (72%), and multiple techniques (64%) diminished accuracy

    15. SECOND WAVE RESEARCHMousetrap Study #1 (Ceci, Huffman, & Smith, 1994) • 96 children ages three to six • Children were interviewed seven times • Instructions: • Real vs. fictitious events • Remember what “really” happened • Fictitious events: • Hand caught in a mousetrap • Hot air balloon ride 

    16. MOUSETRAP STUDY(Ceci, Huffman, & Smith, 1994) Findings • Accurate recollection of real events • By the final (seventh) interview: • 34% of the children assented to fictitious events • 66% of children did not assent • No effect was found for repeated interviews

    17. SECOND WAVE RESEARCH“Picture-in-the-Head” Game (Ceci, Loftus, Leichtman, & Bruck 1994) • 48 children age three to six • Interviewed once a week for eleven weeks about eight real and fictitious events • Fictional events: • Falling off a tricycle and getting stitches • Hot air balloon ride • Waiting for a bus • Observing another child waiting for the bus

    18. “Picture-in-the-Head” Game • Instructed to practice picturing events • Mislead to believe events were real and happened when they were very little • Asked to make a picture in their head of the fictitious event and tell what they saw • Prompted with questions • At 12th session, new interviewer told of first interviewer’s mistake - events not real • Children then asked to recall only real events

    19. “Picture-in-the-Head” Game(Ceci, Loftus, Leichtman, & Bruck 1994) Findings • First 11 weeks: • Assents to the negative false event (falling off a tricycle and getting stitches) • 31% age 3-4 • 28% age 5-6 • 12th week: • Assents to the negative false event • 28% age 3-4 • 23% age 5-6

    20. “Picture-in-the-Head” Game(Ceci, Loftus, Leichtman, & Bruck 1994) • Children were more likely to assent to neutral or positive events • Some children flip-flopped back and forth between assent and denial from one interview to the next

    21. Is the research applicable?(Gilstrap & Ceci, 2005; Reed, 1996) • 1990s Research • Different Than Forensic Interviews: • Research does not mirror real-life forensic interviews of children • “Analogue studies • “Misleading: is not a unidimensional phenomenon” • Highly scripted interviews • Repeatedly interviewed • Highly suggestive techniques

    22. Reconceptualizing Children’s Suggestibility(Gilstrap & Ceci, 2005) • Gilstrap & Ceci research is more similar current best practice • Interviews not scripted • Adult questions/behaviors influenced by child behaviors • Sequential analysis – past research only analyzed child behaviors

    23. Reconceptualizing Children’s Suggestibility(Gilstrap & Ceci, 2005) Research Study: • Forty-one children ages 3 to7 years old interviewed by forty-one experienced interviewers • Staged event that included magician visit to children’s classroom • Interviewers instructed to interview child like they would in field

    24. Reconceptualizing Children’s Suggestibility…(Gilstrap & Ceci, 2005) Findings • Child denial, not child acquiescence, more likely to be followed with suggestive questions • Leading questions were likely to be followed by denial, not acquiescence • Exception when adults introduced inaccurate information = acquiescence

    25. Reconceptualizing Children’s Suggestibility…(Gilstrap & Ceci, 2005) Findings • Child behavior not affected by interviewer behavior • Child’s own behavior, not the use of leading questions, was more related to acquiescence • Child behavior predicts child behavior more than adult behavior

    26. Suggestibility & Forensic Interview(Wood & Garven, 2000) • Improper Interviewing has potential to elicit false allegations • Suggestiveness • Influence • Reinforcement • Removal from direct experience

    27. Suggestibility & Forensic Interview(Wood & Garven, 2000) • Clumsy Interviewing is not as risky • Forensic interviewer missing one or more of basic skills • Disclosure more likely to be judged unreliable • May impact legal & child protection action

    28. Kelly Michaels Case Example Bruck & Ceci, 1995 Q: Did Kelly ever do anything to you with a knife that hurt you? A: No. Q: Did she ever do bad things or hurt you with a spoon? A: No. Q: Did she ever do bad things or hurt you with a knife? A: No. Q: Okay. What about a wooden spoon? A: No. Q: “Why don’t you show me how you think a little girl can be hurt by the fork” And “Why don’t you show me what Kelly did with the big wooden spoon.”

    29. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE “Researchers have concentrated much energy on determining the conditions under which children lie. Yet, what interviewers most need to know are the conditions that foster truth.” (Steward et al., 1993)

    30. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Wood & Garven, 2000; Reed, 1996; Myers, Saywitz & Goodman, 1996) Non-Threatening Atmosphere • Informal, private, free of distractions, comfortable, and child-friendly • Children who feel anxious or intimidated are more susceptible to being misled • Focus on rapport building to make child comfortable

    31. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Wood & Garven, 2000; Reed, 1996; Myers, Saywitz & Goodman, 1996) Limit Number of Interviews • Prevent repeating misleading information • Decrease stress on children • Coordinate with your MDT 

    32. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Wood & Garven, 2000; Myers, Saywitz & Goodman, 1996; Leichtman & Ceci, 1995; Bruck & Ceci, 1999; Reed, 1996) Maintain an Open Mind • Refrain from forming preconceived ideas • Avoid negative stereotyping of the alleged perpetrator • Test alternative hypotheses • Do not criticize children’s answers • “Are you sure?” • “You don’t really mean…”

    33. Maintaining an Open Mind What Affects Our Perspective? • Profession • Social workers find children more credible than police and school personnel (Hicks & Tite, 1998) • CPS and mental health professionals are less likely to perceive allegations as “false” (Everson et al., 1996) • Professional affiliation strongly associated with judgment • Social workers more likely than psychologists and counselors to believe cases had “merit” (Shumaker, 2000, as cited in Herman, 2005)

    34. Maintaining an Open Mind What Affects Our Perspective? • Gender? • Females find children more credible than males (Hicks & Tite, 1998; Jackson & Nuttall, 1993) • Gender does not affect views (Everson et al., 1996) • Personal history • Professionals who are survivors are more likely to believe allegations than others (Jackson & Nuttall, 1993)

    35. Maintaining an Open Mind What Affects Our Perspective?(Everson et al., 1996) • Age of Victim • Professionals found adolescent females the least credible • Males and younger children believed to be more credible than females and adolescents • Characteristics of professionals • Professionals handling more cases in the prior year were less likely to believe the report was false

    36. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY (Wood & Garven, 2000; Davis & Bottoms, 2002; Saywitz & Lyon, 2002;Goodman et al., 1991; Reed, 1996; Myers, Saywitz & Goodman, 1996) Be Supportive & Reassuring • Increases resistance to misleading questions • Warm, friendly interviewer demeanor is best • Pay attention to your nonverbal cues • “Children tend to be more suggestible when they perceive the interviewer to be authoritarian, unfriendly, or intimidating.” (Reed, 1996)

    37. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Wood & Garven, 2000; Myers, Saywitz & Goodman, 1996) Coercion, threats, and selective reinforcement are inappropriate • “That’s right, isn’t it?” • “We can have a break when you tell me___.” • “I think something happened to you.” • “Your brother told me what your cousin did, now it’s your turn.”

    38. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITYWood & Garven, 2000; Lamb et al., 2003 Minimize Direct Questioning LEAST SUGGESTIVE Free Recall Focused Recall Multiple Choice Yes/No “Mis”Leading MOST SUGGESTIVE

    39. RESEARCH SAYS • Sometimes questions have to be very direct to facilitate reporting “Did you tell someone you were touched on one of those parts?” (Steward, et al., 1993; Saywitz et al., 1991) Remember to continue to offer opportunities for narrative

    40. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Wood & Garven, 2000) • Encourage Narrative • Encourage child to use their own words to describe experiences • Avoid interrupting the child’s statements • Save specific questions

    41. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Myers, Saywitz & Goodman, 1996; Ceci & Bruck, 1999) • Initially Focus on Central Elements • Suggestion less likely with well-remembered events • Acquiescence to suggestion more likely with weak event memory

    42. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Lyon, 2002; Myers, Saywitz & Goodman, 1996; Reed, 1996) • Limit Repeated Questions • Within interview • Likely to have an effect for kids under 6 • Belief that their initial answers were wrong • When necessary, rephrasing is recommended

    43. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Lyon, 2002; Myers, Saywitz & Goodman, 1996; Reed, 1996) • Limit Repeated Questions INTERVIEW TIP Use interview instructions: “I may have asked you this already, but I don’t remember.”

    44. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Lyon, 2002; Saywitz, Goodman & Lyon, 2002; Saywitz & Lyon, 2002; Reed, 1996) • Do Not Mislead Children - Children defer to adults’ perceptions - Children comply with adult expectations - Children shouldn’t be “tested” with misleading info.

    45. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Reed, 1996) Encourage Children Not to Guess • Belief that the questions demand an answer versus “I don’t know” • Belief that “not knowing” is a failure • Topics are too difficult to discuss

    46. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Reed, 1996) INTERVIEW TIP • Use interview instructions: • “It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I don’t remember.’” • “It’s okay to correct me if I make a mistake.” • “It’s okay to tell me that you don’t want to talk.”

    47. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITYWood & Garven, 2000 Avoid fantasy • Do not allow children to speculate • Do not encourage the child to pretend or engage in imaginative play • Do not use toys or puppets

    48. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Bruck & Ceci, 1999; Lyon, 2001; Myers, 1994; Saywitz, Goodman, & Lyon, 2002) Avoid Developmental Stereotypes • Suggestibility is not a trait • Related to situational factors • Vulnerability to suggestion is a matter of degree; even adults can be suggestible • Preschoolers can be as accurate as older children and can recall significant, forensically relevant information

    49. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Bruck & Ceci, 1999; Lyon, 2001; Myers, 1994; Saywitz, Goodman, & Lyon, 2002) Avoid Developmental Stereotypes • Do not over-generalize suggestibility of “children”: • children under age five appear most vulnerable • school age children less susceptible • 10 to 12 YO, no more suggestible than adults

    50. REDUCING SUGGESTIBILITY(Saywitz, Goodman, & Lyon, 2002; Saywitz & Lyon, 2002; Wood & Garven, 2000) Ask Developmentally Appropriate Questions • Misunderstanding can be common • May attempt to answer questions not understood • Inability to source monitor makes a child vulnerable to incorporating false suggestions