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Child Witnesses: Lying About Something Heard (From Advances in Psychology and Law, P 129-135, 1997, Santiago Redondo and Vicente Garrido, et al., eds. -- See NCJ-175532)

NCJ Number
M Alonso-Quecuty; E Hernandez-Fernaud; L Campos
Date Published
7 pages
This study examined two types of testimony (true and false) about facts that study subjects did not see but only heard on an audio recording, so as to determine whether they followed the hypothesized pattern of reality monitoring for externally and internally generated memories, as well as whether there were differences between these statements and those obtained in previous research conducted in two different experimental conditions (witnessing a "realistic" event and watching a video sequence of the same event in a laboratory).
The sample was composed of 50 people: 25 children (average age 9) and 25 adults (average age 21). Subjects were instructed to listen to an audio-recording description of an event. In the second phase of the study, subjects were asked to give two verbal versions of what they had heard: their recall of the event and an elaborate (imagined/false) version of the event. There were three independent variables: age of the witnesses, the truth value of their statements (true and false), and the experimental condition. The dependent variables were the accuracy of the statements, the degree of confabulation that they contained, and the differentiating dimensions of externally/internally generated memories according to the hypothesis of reality monitoring (contextual information, sensorial details, and internal information). The study found that true accounts contained more contextual information and more sensorial details than the false statements, which referred more to internal processes. Moreover, the study found that statements given by subjects about an event they only heard were more accurate than those given after witnessing the event, but they were also more contaminated by confabulations than those obtained in more realistic conditions. Children were less sensitive to the experimental condition than adults. The results are congruent with Kosslyn's theory that children think in terms of images more frequently than do adults, with their imagination being more similar to an obvious action. If they think in terms of mental images, the way they receive the information about the event is not important, because they will always transform this information into pictures. This hypothesis is also congruent with the author's other findings: children's accounts contain a low number of references to internal states. Conversely, adults could elaborate two types of memories, one more "visual" and another more "semantic," depending on what type of information they had received. For this reason their statements were more sensitive to the experimental condition. 14 references