Developmental differences in the effects of repeated interviews and interviewer bias on young children's event memory and false reports

Dev Psychol. 2007 Jul;43(4):823-37. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.43.4.823.


The present study investigated developmental differences in the effects of repeated interviews and interviewer bias on children's memory and suggestibility. Three- and 5-year-olds were singly or repeatedly interviewed about a play event by a highly biased or control interviewer. Children interviewed once by the biased interviewer after a long delay made the most errors. Children interviewed repeatedly, regardless of interviewer bias, were more accurate and less likely to falsely claim that they played with a man. In free recall, among children questioned once after a long delay by the biased interviewer, 5-year-olds were more likely than were 3-year-olds to claim falsely that they played with a man. However, in response to direct questions, 3-year-olds were more easily manipulated into implying that they played with him. Findings suggest that interviewer bias is particularly problematic when children's memory has weakened. In contrast, repeated interviews that occur a short time after a to-be-remembered event do not necessarily increase children's errors, even when interviews include misleading questions and interviewer bias. Implications for developmental differences in memory and suggestibility are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological*
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Periodicity*
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Suggestion