Unit 5: Some causes of Childrens Suggestibility Introduction Ceci and Bruck (1993) offered the following definition of suggestibility, the degree to which encoding, storage, retrieval, and reporting of events can be influenced by a range of social and psychological factors (p. 404). This definition is helpful because it considers factors that are internal and external to the child as well as factors that were present before, during, and after the target event. According to Ceci and Bruck (2006) suggestibility effects are a consequence of interviewer bias. A biased interviewer holds a priori beliefs about what happened during the target event and may shape the interview to confirm those beliefs. There are many ways the interview can be shaped. We reviewed some of these in Units 3 and 4, for instance, closed questions, nonsupportive interviewer, repeated suggestive interviews, and developmentally insensitive questions. In this Unit, we will review factors that can affect childrens reports through a process of introducing new information to the child. The research in most of these areas is extensive and it would be impossible to provide even an adequate review. Instead, when the literature is extensive and there is little controversy concerning conclusions, you will learn about one or two seminal studies in each area; the methodology, the results, and the conclusion. Suggestive Questions When an interviewer introduces information that had not been reported by the child (i.e., asks a suggestive question), the new information may show up in childrens subsequent report of the event. In an actual forensic interview, the interviewer does not know what happened and so the new information contained in the suggestive question may be accurate (i.e., a leading question) or it may be inaccurate (i.e., a misleading question). Whether the question is leading or misleading, it will compromise the integrity of the childs report: if the question is misleading it may introduce error into the childs report; if the question is leading, the accuracy of the detail is suspect because it was first introduced by the interviewer. The first (modern) clear and controlled demonstration of the effect of suggestive questions on childrens reports was done by Ceci, Ross, and Toglia (1987). In Exp. 1, children who were 3 to 4years old, 5 to 6years old, 7 to 9years old, or 10 to 12years old heard a story, accompanied by pictures, about Lauren who had a stomach ache from eating eggs too fast. One day later, half of the children were asked if they remembered the story about Lauren who had a headache form eating her cereal too fast and half were asked if they remembered the story about Lauren who was sick (this is the control conditionno suggestions). Two days after the biasing interview, children completed a forced choice test where they selected the picture that depicted the story they heard (choices were the story detail or the suggested detail). The data are in Figure 1. Figure 5.1. Percent of correct responses from children in the biased and unbiased conditions (Ceci, Ross, Toglia, 1987, p. 41) https:canvas.sfu.cacourses29673files5220594preview When you look at this graph, a suggestibility effect is observed when the height of the blue bar is higher than the height of the red bar. The height of the blue bar illustrates the accuracy of childrens reports when no biasing information was presented. Preschool children were more suggestible than both 7 to 9year olds and 10 to 12yearolds. Take a look at the blue bars, the percent of details children recalled when no suggestions were presented. Even the 3 to 4year olds correctly recognized over 80 percent of the details when there were no suggestions! This led Ceci et al. to conclude that while preschoolers are more suggestible than older children, the explanation cannot be that preschoolers memory for the event was poorer when not presented with biasing information, children in all four age groups recalled the same amount of information.