24 Psychology, Public Policy, & Law 379-392 (2018)


Children’s memories for their conversations are commonly explored in child abuse cases. In two studies, we examined conversational recall in 154 4- to 9-year-old children’s reports of an interaction with a stranger, some of whom were complicit in a transgression and were admonished to keep it a secret. Immediately afterwards, all children were interviewed about their interaction. One week later, children were asked recall questions about their interaction with the stranger, their conversations with the stranger, and their conversations with the interviewer. Overall, interaction recall questions elicited few details about children’s conversations, whereas conversation recall questions were effective in doing so. Accuracy was high in response to both the interaction and conversation recall questions, with no differences observed. Questions explicitly inquiring about coaching elicited higher error rates, as well as apparent attempts to maintain secrecy. Source errors were rare. Conversation recall questions elicited new transgression disclosures among a substantial percentage of children. The results provide tentative support for the use of recall questions in eliciting conversational information from children.


Child Psychology | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Developmental Psychology | Evidence | Family Law | Juvenile Law | Law | Law and Psychology

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