Secrecy and suggestibility: are children's memories for secrets less suggestible than other memories?

Clare Wilson, M. Powell, S. Raju, R. Romeo

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Adult secrecy research has found a memory-enhancing effect for information kept secret as the secret is mentally rehearsed each time the adult is required to prevent it being reported (e.g. Lane & Wegner, 1994). The present study examined possible memory-enhancing effects of children keeping information secret. Two hundred and thirty two five to eight year olds took part in a puppet-making task. During the task the puppet-maker sprayed glitter onto the puppets. Half the children were told to keep a secret (that the spray had been taken from Disneyland) and the other half (the control group) were merely told the spray was from Disneyland. One week later the children were interviewed either by the puppet-maker (the secret-giver) or by the puppet-maker's friend (the secret-novice). The five to six year olds showed no effect of the secret condition, whereas the seven to eight year olds made significantly less errors in their free recall in the secret condition compared to the control condition. There was no effect of the secret condition on children's suggestibility to leading questions. However, both age groups were significantly more suggestible when interviewed by the secret-giver. Finally, both age groups showed a recall deficit in the secret condition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-261
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004


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