"That never happened": Adults' discernment of children's true and false memory reports

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Adults' evaluations of children's reports can determine whether legal proceedings are undertaken and whether they ultimately lead to justice. The current study involved 92 undergraduates and 35 laypersons who viewed and evaluated videotaped interviews of 3- and 5-year-olds providing true or false memory reports. The children's reports fell into the following categories based on a 2 (event type: true vs. false) × 2 (child report: assent vs. denial) factorial design: accurate reports, false reports, accurate denials, and false denials. Results revealed that adults were generally better able to correctly judge accurate reports, accurate denials, and false reports compared with false denials: For false denials, adults were, on average, "confident" that the event had not occurred, even though the event had in fact been experienced. Participant age predicted performance. These findings underscore the greater difficulty adults have in evaluating young children's false denials compared with other types of reports. Implications for law-related situations in which adults are called upon to evaluate children's statements are discussed. © 2011 American Psychological Association.




Block, S. D., Shestowsky, D., Segovia, D. A., Goodman, G. S., Schaaf, J. M., & Alexander, K. W. (2012). “That never happened”: Adults’ discernment of children’s true and false memory reports. Law and Human Behavior, 36(5), 365–374. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0093920

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