Age Differences in Eyewitness Testimony

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Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 10, No. 4, 1986 Age Differences in Eyewitness Testimony* Gail S. Goodmant and Rebecca S. Reed1: This study examined age differences in eyewitness testimony. Children, three and six years of age, and adults interacted with an unfamiliar man for 5 minutes. Four or five days later, the witnesses answered objective and suggestive questions, recalled what happened, and tried to identify the confederate from a target-present photo line-up. The adults and 6-year-olds did not differ in their ability to answer objective questions or identify the confederate, but 6-year-olds were more suggestible than adults and recalled less about the event. Compared to the older age groups, the 3-year-olds answered fewer…show more content…
For a further discussion of recent legal trends concerning child witnesses, see Bulkley (1983), Goodman (1984), and Whitcomb, Shapiro, and Stellwagen (1985). AGE DIFFERENCES 319 Psychological Issues Research on child witnesses dates back to the turn of the century (Binet, 1900; Pear & Wyatt, 1914; Stern, 1910; Varendonck, 1911; Whipple, 1909, 1911, 1912, 1913; See Goodman, 1984a and Yarmey, 1984, for reviews). Many at that time concluded that children are less accurate witnesses than adults, but methodological flaws r e n d e r the findings of most of these studies questionable (Goodman, 1984a). There is now reason to believe that children will not always be less accurate witnesses than adults. Current theoretical perspectives on memory development propose that children's familiarity with domains of information can have profound effects on memory development (Brown, 1979; Chi, 1976, 1978; Fischer, 1980; Mandler, 1984; Nelson, 1983). Children's early mental organizations of the world are likely to concern familiar real-life events (Nelson, 1983), so children's memory for them should be better than one would expect based on studies of memory for taxonomic categories, scientific demonstrations, or other types of information less familiar to children. To the extent that a witnessed event falls within the realm of children's understanding and experience, children may in many ways be
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