More than suggestion: the effect of interviewing techniques from the McMartin Preschool case

J Appl Psychol. 1998 Jun;83(3):347-59. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.83.3.347.


Child interviewing techniques derived from transcripts of the McMartin Preschool case were found to be substantially more effective than simple suggestive questions at inducing preschool children to make false allegations against a classroom visitor. Thirty-six children interviewed with McMartin techniques made 58% accusations, compared with 17% for 30 children interviewed with suggestive questions. Social influence and reinforcement appeared to be more powerful determinants of children's answers than simple suggestive questions. The SIRR model is proposed to explain how false statements may be elicited from children or adults. Categories identified in the SIRR model are suggestive questions, social influence, reinforcement, and removal from direct experience.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Suggestion*