Repeated Questions, Deception, and Children’s True and False Reports of Body Touch

Can you rely on consistency as an indicator of truthfulness in children’s eyewitness accounts? Jodi Quas and colleagues have just published a study in the journal Child Maltreatment that suggests that we probably cannot. Just one of several interesting findings in this paper on behaviour of children lying or telling the truth about being touched. From the abstract:

Four- to 7-year-olds’ ability to answer repeated questions about body touch either honestly or dishonestly was examined. Children experienced a play event, during which one third of the children were touched innocuously. Two weeks later, they returned for a memory interview. Some children who had not been touched were instructed to lie during the interview and say that they had been touched. Children so instructed were consistent in maintaining the lie but performed poorly when answering repeated questions unrelated to the lie. Children who were not touched and told the truth were accurate when answering repeated questions. Of note, children who had been touched and told the truth were the most inconsistent. Results call into question the common assumption that consistency is a useful indicator of veracity in children’s eyewitness accounts. © 2007 SAGE Publications

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