Child witness suggestibility: The impact of authority emphasis on memory recall

Victoria Downs (2011). Child witness suggestibility: The impact of authority emphasis on memory recall Honours Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Victoria Downs
Thesis Title Child witness suggestibility: The impact of authority emphasis on memory recall
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-10-12
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Peter Newcombe
Total pages 72
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary Child witness suggestibility has received much attention over the last several decades, with the credibility of children‟s testimonies heavily scrutinized by those within both the court system and developmental fields alike. Historically, their openness to authority suggestion, inability to decipher fact from fantasy and limited memory capabilities has cast children as inaccurate and unreliable witnesses. However research has neglected ways in which a child‟s memory may be moulded by the innocuous responses of those around them. The current study examined ways in which an authority figure might deemphasise or devalue an event in order to manipulate the content and clarity of a child‟s event recall of a staged theft. Eighteen younger (M = 4.39 years, SD = 1.42 years) and twenty-eight older (M = 7.14 years, SD = 1.43 years) children participated following parental consent. After acknowledging that a target toy was missing, the children‟s teacher responded in one of two ways, either emphasising or de-emphasising the importance of the theft. The following day, the children were individually interviewed using a 10-item memory questionnaire. Four short moral dilemmas were also read to the children to gauge their interpretations of the intentions of others. The interview was readministered 10 days after the event to examine suggestibility. Results found that event recall accuracy, resistance to suggestibility and moral reasoning all significantly increased with age. The recall accuracy across time significantly differed in the younger but not the older group. Authority emphasis too was seen to significantly affect the younger children‟s resistance to misleading information more than the older children‟s resistance. The implications of these results are discussed.
Keyword Child witness suggesibility
Recall of events

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Created: Wed, 13 Jun 2012, 15:13:08 EST by Mrs Ann Lee on behalf of School of Psychology