Response Latency as a Predictor of the Accuracy of Children's Reports

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Researchers have explored various diagnostic cues to the accuracy of information provided by child eyewitnesses. Previous studies indicated that children's confidence in their reports predicts the relative accuracy of these reports, and that the confidence-accuracy relationship generally improves as children grow older. In this study, we examined the added contribution of response latency to the prediction of children's accuracy over and above that of confidence ratings. In Experiments 1 and 2, 2nd and 5th graders studied picture–event pairs and were tested using forced-choice, 2-alternative, or 5-alternative questions. In Experiment 3, children watched a slideshow depicting a story and were tested by 5-alternative questions about story details. The children indicated their confidence in each response, and response latency was measured. The results of all experiments suggested that children in both age groups relied on response latency as a cue for confidence, and this reliance contributed to the success with which they monitored the accuracy of their reports. When the test format was easy (Experiment 1), 2nd graders were as accurate as 5th graders in monitoring the accuracy of their answers, and the latency of their responses was no less predictive of accuracy. When the task was more difficult, age differences emerged. Nevertheless, in all experiments and for both age groups, response latency was found to have added value for predicting accuracy over and above that of confidence. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings for predicting the accuracy of children's reports are discussed.

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