Age and Interviewer Behavior as Predictors of Interrogative Suggestibility

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Abstract

Objective.

The main objective was to explore the influence of interviewer behavior—abrupt versus friendly—and the age of participants on interrogative suggestibility.

Method.

The study involved 42 young adults and 50 elderly participants. The Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale 2 was used. Data analysis involved a 2-factor between-subjects design (interviewer behavior × age) and mediation analysis.

Results.

The scores of elderly participants were significantly lower than younger adults on memory indices and significantly higher on some suggestibility indexes. Some suggestibility indices in the abrupt experimental condition were higher than those in the friendly experimental condition. Elderly participants who were interviewed under the abrupt condition were more likely to change their answers after receiving negative feedback than younger adults. Memory quality was a mediator of the relationship between age and the tendency to yield to suggestive questions. Self-appraisal of memory was a mediator between both age and interviewer behavior and the tendency to change answers after negative feedback.

Discussion.

Mechanisms of the relationship between age, interviewer behavior, and suggestibility are discussed on the basis of the mediational analyses. The findings suggest that a friendly manner should be adopted when interrogating witnesses.

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