Under Pressure: Individual Differences in Children's Suggestibility in Response to Intense Social Influence

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Abstract

Prior research on the relation between children's suggestibility and verbal skills has yielded mixed results. This study examined children's suggestibility in a high social pressure context in conjunction with individual differences in verbal ability and social understanding. Sixty-nine children were read a story by a classroom visitor. One week later children were asked suggestive questions about the visit and pressured to respond ‘yes’. One week after the first interview, children were re-asked the same questions, this time with no pressure. Children's suggestibility in response to social pressure was found to be significantly and negatively correlated with receptive vocabulary knowledge, but not with social understanding, the ability to understand and interpret social interactions. In addition, suggestibility scores exhibited a distinctly bimodal distribution, with many children acquiescing to all pressured suggestions, many children acquiescing to no suggestions, and few children falling between these two extremes.

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