Psychology and the Law ch 5

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19 Mar 2012
After the Salem witch trials, children being used as witnesses for the defense has had
In the 1970’s there was an increase about research on children’s witness abilities
Four factors were seen as the leading cause for the resurgence of research on chil-
dren witnesses:
Expert psychology testimony was increasing and more acceptable
Social scientist wanted to be able to apply the research to real world problems
Studies on adult eyewitness testimony were increasing (also pretty faulty)
Legal community became interested in child witnesses and behavioral sciences
Recall for events
Children are accurately able to recall forensic related details and are capable of having
accurate recall; problem is we don’t know when they are fabricating (making false
Free recall vs directed questioning
Children report little when using free recall
Older children and adults are more resistant to leading questions than younger kids
Yes or no questions are more problematic than wh- questions (who, what, etc)
Yes or no questions rely on recognition and not on recall so they are more likely
to be erroneous when answering the questions
Why are children more suggestible than adults?
Two reasons could be social compliance (giving a response they think the interviewer
wants) and their cognitive or memory system
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Social compliance: they trust that the adult wouldn't ask a stupid question and re-
spond in a way they see more fitting for the question; if they are asked the same ques-
tion later in a non-suggestible way, they would probably answer accurately
Changes in cognition: children and adults encode, store and retrieve info differently;
they are more likely to misattribute where their info came from (hearing about some-
thing, but recalling they experienced it)
Anatomically detailed dolls
The dolls are like rag dolls which are build with the female or male anatomy; they are
usually used for children who would suspected of being sexually abused and are unable
to verbalize what events took place
Children of all ages are likely to report more “fantastic” details w/ the dolls than w/out
Children that had an examination including a genital examination, and were asked
about the exam and to show on the dolls what happened, they would not report the gen-
ital touching; when asked a direct question tho, their response was more accurate
There is not one standard doll or standard scoring procedure for scoring - the use of
the dolls for diagnosing sexual abuse can be both inaccurate and dangerous
Other techniques for interviewing children
1. Criterion based content analysis (CBCA): facilitates w/ distinguishing truthful
from false statements made by children; is part of the protocol of statement validity anal-
ysis and includes 18 criteria to determine if something is true or fabricated
1. Statement validity analysis (SVA): credible assessment for sexual abuse allega-
tions; has 3 parts:
1. Structured interview w/ victim
2. Analysis of verbal content of victims statement - uses the CBCA; is also the mot
important part
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3. Applies a statement validity checklist
Problems w/ the CBCA: +vely correlated w/ older children and higher rating on the
CBCA, since younger children are less cognitively able to answer questions, they are
more likely to appear doubtful
CBCA is also influenced by the child’s age and how familiar the event is to them
There are different criteria’s to conclude if someone is truthful and the different de-
cision rules
Method is subjective and doesnt have inter-rater reliability
Is still used in some parts of europe and also w/ adults sometimes
2. Step-wise interview: aims to keep false claims at a minimum; question start w/
least leading and leads to different types of questioning based on whats needed
The method is consistent to what we know about childrens recall abilities and is
most widely used in Canada
3. Narrative elaboration: children organize their story in certain categories - they use
“line drawings” in order to recall as much as they can remember
Overall, the method is able to produce increases in the amount of info that is re-
called; mental reinstatement does NOT increase the accuracy of the method
4. Interview protocol at the NICHD: use two types of prompts for interviews: time
prompts, where children fill in details and a timeline and cue prompts where the de-
tails the kids give are asked in questions, so they can elaborate
This method is useful especially to leading to the topic of abuse
5. Cognitive interview: similar to what is used w/ adults and has more accurate re-
sults than a control group
Recall memory following a long delay
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