Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
Dr. Kim Roberts
Research on script memory shows that individuals have a difficult time isolating single instances of a repeated event because a generic script (e.g., one has a generic script for typical grocery shopping; grab a cart, gather items, then pay) has formed over time. Scripts capture the “gist” of what usually happens and allow individuals to predict what probably occurred based on the robustness of the script. Thus, individuals are able to identify details of what occurs; however, piecing which details came from a particular incident poses its challenges, especially for children. Source monitoring is the ability to accurately differentiate sources (e.g., “Was I at Sobeys or was I at Zehrs?”) and state the details which occurred during this one incident. Due to the formation of scripts and their general representation, it is challenging to source monitor. Federal laws require children testifying in court regarding abuse to give specific details of one incident in order to be credible. However, as described, due to the formation of scripts, the accuracy or ability to monitor the source of these details is jeopardized. The present study examined an interview technique focusing on “different times” (often referred to as “deviations”) from scripted memories which may aid children in accurately recalling details from particular incidents. Children (N = 89, 5-6 and 7-8-year olds) participated in five repeated incidents (referred to as “events”) where for half of the children, the fourth event was “different” from the usual script (e.g., one event was about animals and the other events were about the human body). Children in the control condition also engaged in five events, however, there was no “different event” in which half of the children experienced all five events about the human body and for the other half, all events were about animals. Three to seven days after the fifth (final) event, children were interviewed and asked to talk about the fourth event. For the “different” condition, this was a deviation from the usual event script, and for the control condition the fourth day is a usual scripted event-no “different event”. Results revealed that children in the “different” condition had higher accuracy scores as well as lower errors in the details provided compared to the control condition. However, the different condition did not recall a higher number of details about the events compared to those in the control condition. Additionally, both 7-8-year olds and 5-6-year olds performed equally well on accuracy scores and number of errors mentioned. Conclusions from this study reveal that focusing on deviations or “different days” aids children in reducing errors in the information they provide about that day compared to a “usual” scripted day. These findings could be beneficial for the types of questions forensic interviewers use with children who are testifying in court about multiple repeated events. Specifically, asking children questions about a time that stood out to them (i.e., a “different time”) could be beneficial for increasing source monitoring and number of details children describe, ultimately helping the child to become more credible in their testimony.
Vanderloon, McKenzie K., "Children’s Ability to Identify an Unusual Occurrence of a Repeated Event" (2016). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1890.