The catechism effect: child testimonies during a 17th-century witch panic as related to educational achievement

Memory. 2000 Mar;8(2):65-9. doi: 10.1080/096582100387614.


Testimonies from 488 children given to the priests of the parish of Rättvik during a preliminary investigation of a Swedish witch panic in 1670-71 are examined in relation to records from parish catechetical meetings held in 1671. The result implies that children who knew and understood at least parts of Luther's catechism were less liable to have falsely alleged that they had been kidnapped by female satanists during the witch panic of the previous year. It is suggested that these effects were caused by differences in cognitive, social, and emotional resources among these children as compared to those who were unable to learn and understand any parts of Luther's catechism.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Deception*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • History, 17th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Development
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Sweden
  • Witchcraft / history*