Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Children's testimony may be influenced by co-witnesses

Date:
June 10, 2010
Source:
University of Gothenburg
Summary:
When children report about an event they can be highly accurate. But if they talk to other witnesses, children's testimony may become tainted. Researchers have examined children's vulnerability to co-witness influence, and present a new method that can help child witnesses to provide more detailed witness reports.

When children report about an event they can be highly accurate. But if they talk to other witnesses, children's testimony may become tainted. A doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg examines children's vulnerability to co-witness influence, and presents a new method that can help child witnesses to provide more detailed witness reports.

Emma Roos af Hjelmsäter's thesis is based on a series of studies where children aged 7-13 were interviewed regarding an event they had experienced two weeks earlier. Prior to the interviews, some of the children listened to a co-witness' account of the same event -- an account which contained some misinformation. Although the children's reports were generally quite accurate, the results showed that the information provided by the co-witness influenced the children to make errors when they reported about the event.

'The children were influenced to add false information, that is, some of the things they reported had in fact never occurred. But they were also influenced to omit true details', says Roos af Hjelmsäter.

Legal consequences

Thus, the thesis shows that the children were influenced to make two types of memory error: addition of false details and omission of true details. Both these types of memory error may have serious legal consequences.

'If a witness reports false details the investigation may be led in the wrong direction, and ultimately this may even result in the wrong person being convicted. On the other hand, if a witness leaves out or falsely denies a correct detail, crucial aspects may be neglected, and the case might never reach closure', says Roos af Hjelmsäter.

Roos af Hjelmsäter points out that since eyewitness testimony is the most common type of evidence in criminal cases, it is important to study factors that may affect the reliability of eyewitness testimony. It is also important to consider what type of event and information the testimony concerns. Roos af Hjelmsäter studied different types of information and found large differences depending on the type of detail the children were asked about.

'Previous research has often concluded that children are both unreliable as witnesses and easy to influence. However, my thesis shows that when children report about central aspects of a personally experienced event, their reports can indeed be quite reliable', says Roos af Hjelmsäter.

Positive effects

One of the studies included in the thesis explored the effect of a "self-administered interview" (SAI), a questionnaire in which the children individually wrote down their memories soon after the event. The results showed that this helped children recall the event -- when they were interviewed two weeks later, children who had previously used the SAI gave more detailed descriptions of the event.

'This is an important finding considering the fact that children tend to give sparse information while legal contexts often call for very detailed witness reports', says Roos af Hjelmsäter.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. The original article was written by Henrik Axlid. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Gothenburg. "Children's testimony may be influenced by co-witnesses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610093505.htm>.
University of Gothenburg. (2010, June 10). Children's testimony may be influenced by co-witnesses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610093505.htm
University of Gothenburg. "Children's testimony may be influenced by co-witnesses." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610093505.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) — A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins