Research shows that closing the eyes during retrieval can help both adults and children to remember more about witnessed events. In this study, we investigated whether the eye-closure effect in children is explained by general cognitive load, modality-specific interference, or a combination. 120 children (60 female) aged between 8 and 11 years viewed a 5-min clip depicting a theft and were questioned about the event. During the cued-recall interview, children either viewed a blank screen (blank-screen condition), kept their eyes closed (eye-closure condition), were exposed to visual stimuli (visual-distraction condition), or were exposed to auditory stimuli (auditory-distraction condition). Children in the blank-screen and eye-closure conditions provided significantly more correct and fewer incorrect responses about visual details than children in the visual- and auditory-distraction conditions. No advantage was found for auditory details. These results support neither a pure cognitive-load explanation (in which the effect is expected to be observed for recall of both visual and auditory details), nor a pure modality-specific account (in which recall of visual details should only be disrupted by visual distractions). Practical implications of the findings are discussed.
Keywords: children; cognitive load; eye-closure; investigative interviewing; memory retrieval; modality-specific interference.