ERIC Number: ED161297
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1976-Dec
Reference Count: 0
The Influence of the Form of the Question on the Eyewitness Testimony of Preschool Children. Papers and Reports on Child Language Development, No. 12.
Dale, Philip S.; And Others
This research discusses the probability of child witnesses providing a complete and accurate description of an event. Children have been regarded as particularly inaccurate, highly suggestible, and basically unreliable in court cases. Psychologists have concluded that younger children are much more suggestible than older children or adults, and a devious lawyer could, if he so desired, control the testimony of a child by means of suggestion. This research investigated one method of "creating an idea of what the child is to see," namely, that of varying the wording of the questions used to interrogate the child about some event he has recently witnessed. Although very young children may be highly suggestible, this research attempts to determine whether preschoolers are indeed influenced by the subtle changes in the form of the questions. Thirty-two children, ranging in age from 4;0 to 4;6, were shown four films. The children were interviewed individually with questions on the films combining the following variables: affirmation-negation ("Did you see...?" vs. "Didn't you see...?"); presence/absence (for each film, four entities or events actually occurring were selected, and four plausible entities or events which did not occur were generated); and either the article variable ("the" vs. "a" for singular entities) or the quantifier variable ("some" vs. "any" for plural or mass noun entities). It was found that if the question concerned an entity that was present in the film, the form of the question did not matter. If, however, the question concerned an entity that was not present in the film, the form of the question significantly affected the probability of a "yes" response. (Author/NCR)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Stanford Univ., CA. Committee on Linguistics.
Identifiers: Questions; Testimony; Witnesses