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Department of Psychology


Three experiments were conducted to test the proposition that children’s suggestibility about an occurrence of a repeated event is heightened when an interviewer suggests false details that were experienced in non-target occurrences of the event as opposed to new details that never occurred. In each experiment, children participated in a repeated event during which specific items varied each time (e.g., the children always got a sticker but the theme of the sticker was different in each occurrence). Separate biasing and memory interviews were then conducted. In Experiment 1, the interviewer merely suggested that the false details might have occurred in the event. In the remaining experiments, the suggested details were clearly linked to the target occurrence with either a contextual or temporal cue. The potential moderating effect of the child’s age (Experiment 1) and the retention interval (Experiments 1 and 2) were also examined. Consistent with the initial hypothesis, suggestions about experienced (non-target) details were more likely to be repeated by the children compared to suggestions about non-experienced details. In Experiments 2 and 3, experienced suggestions were also more likely to inhibit children’s recall of the target occurrence. The relevance and generalisability of these findings to the legal setting are discussed.