The effect of co-witness information and individual differences in cognitive abilities on the suggestibility of pre-school children
Despite nearly 25 years of research, psychologists are still learning new ways in which various demographic, psychological, social, and cognitive factors contribute to child suggestibility. Numerous facets of each area have been studied independently, but as a field, it is becoming apparent that suggestibility is also affected by complex interactions between these various components (Scullin, Kanaya, & Ceci, 2002). The current study investigated several forensic interviewing techniques and psychosocial and cognitive factors that were hypothesized to influence child suggestibility. One hundred children were randomly assigned to five interview conditions after viewing a live event. The supposed statements of a co-witness about the event and the credibility of the co-witness were manipulated as independent variables. Results indicated that children who had been told about the statements of the co-witness were more suggestible than children in a control condition. No significant effect was found for a high-status co-witness versus a low-status co-witness or for the interviewer's endorsement of the co-witness. As predicted, younger children were significantly more suggestible than older children and exhibited expected developmental gains in theory of mind and executive function. Children with theory of mind and better executive function and language abilities were less suggestible overall. Overall, the findings indicate that telling a child about the statements of a co-witness can significantly increase suggestibility, and that the suggestive effect bears little relationship to the status of the co-witness. These findings are relevant to best practices regarding forensic interviewing of children. This study also provided further clarification for the interrelatedness of theory of mind and executive function, suggesting that executive function is crucial for the manifestation of theory of mind.
Law|Developmental psychology|Cognitive psychology
Jones, Rachell Leanne, "The effect of co-witness information and individual differences in cognitive abilities on the suggestibility of pre-school children" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3609492.