Distorting Children's Reports and Interpretations of Events Through Suggestion

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Abstract

Fifty-four children (33 girls and 21 boys), 4 to 6 years old, participated in an experiment examining the effects of leading interviews on their interpretations and factual recall of an interaction with a teaching assistant (TA). Children were either familiar or unfamiliar with the TA and were interviewed in either an incriminating or a neutral manner. In comparison with neutral-interview children, incriminating-interview children made more cued-recall errors and endorsed more biased interpretations of the TA's actions. Familiarity with the TA had limited effects on free recall and interpretations of the TA's actions and had no effect on cued recall. Results indicated that 4- to 6-year-olds will produce misleading reports about their interactions with either familiar or unfamiliar adults when they are promoted to do so by an opinionated adult interviewer.

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