Testing a New Approach to Improve Recall in Different Ages: Providing Witnesses With a Model Statement

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Abstract

Obtaining an elaborate witness statement is essential for police investigations. Free recall, however, sometimes lacks richness of detail, especially in younger witnesses. Drawing from deception detection and educational psychological literature, we tested the beneficial value of a model statement to enhance recall quantity without decreasing accuracy in 48 adults (Experiment 1), and in 110 7- to 10-year-old children and 14- to 17-year-old adolescents (Experiment 2). Participants either listened to an unrelated account (i.e., model statement) or performed a filler task prior to recalling a target event witnessed 1 week earlier. We replicated age increases in statement quantity and age-related decreases to suggestive follow-up questions. No effect of model statement was found. Reasons for why a model statement was ineffective and recommendations are discussed.

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