The effects of individual and social factors on children's perceptions and suggestibility
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
The four main empirical studies reported in this thesis investigated the effects of interviewer behaviour and children's anxiety on children's perceptions and memory accuracy and suggestibility. The first and third studies explored how different interviewer nonverbal and verbal behaviours were being perceived by children. In these studies, eight- to ten-years-old watched video clips of an interviewer displaying combinations of nonverbal and verbal behaviours defined in the literature as'supportive' (e.g., smiling, positive verbal reinforcement) and 'non-supportive' (e.g.,closed body posture, verbal coercions), and were asked to rate the interviewer on six attributes (e.g., friendliness, strictness). The results from these studies demonstrated that smiling and positive reinforcements received high ratings on the positive attributes (i.e., friendly, sincere, and helpful) and fidgeting and negative reinforcements on the negative attributes (i.e., strict, bored, and stress). The second and fourth studies then examined the effects that these interviewer behaviours had on children's memory accuracy and suggestibility in investigative interviews. Eight- to ten-year-old children participated in a learning activity about the vocal chords. One week later, they were interviewed about the activity by an interviewer adopting either the supportive nonverbal or verbal behaviour or the non-supportive one. This showed that children interviewed by the non-supportive interviewers were less accurate, more suggestible, more likely to falsely report having been touched during the activity, less likely to say that they did not know an answer, and reported feeling more anxious due to the interviewing than those interviewed by the supportive interviewer. Finally, overall, children gave more correct answers to questions about central, as opposed to peripheral, details of the activity. The discussion of the empirical research is then followed by some concluding comments.
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