Children's reinforcement-induced suggestibility: Its developmental trajectory and relation to individual differences

Elizabeth Rose Uhl, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Research has shown that reinforcement by interviewers can lead children to make false allegations of wrong doing (e.g., Garven, Wood, & Malpass, 2000). The current study examined the developmental trajectory of reinforcement-induced suggestibility and its relation to individual differences among children. Forty-eight kindergarteners, 52 second graders, and 54 fourth graders viewed a science demonstration by a young man introduced as “Paco Perez.” One week later they were interviewed about the visit with misleading questions that suggested Paco had engaged in wrongdoing. Half of the children were interviewed using reinforcement; the other half did not receive reinforcement. Two weeks after Paco's visit, children were re-interviewed and asked to give a free recall report of what he had done. Individual differences were assessed over both interview sessions. On average, reinforced children made false allegations in response to 48% of misleading questions during the first interview, compared to 8% of non-reinforced children. Kindergarteners made significantly more false allegations than second graders and fourth graders. However, the additive effect of reinforcement on false allegations did not differ among the three age groups. Among reinforced children, the tendency to make false allegations was negatively correlated with self-esteem. Among non-reinforced children, the tendency to make false allegations was negatively correlated with self-esteem and need for approval scores. Among reinforced children the frequency distribution of false allegations was bimodal and U-shaped, but among the non-reinforced children the distribution was unimodal and L-shaped. Overall, the results suggest that reinforcement-induced suggestibility involves different psychological processes than suggestibility induced by misleading questions.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Uhl, Elizabeth Rose, "Children's reinforcement-induced suggestibility: Its developmental trajectory and relation to individual differences" (2011). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3457762.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI3457762

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