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How interviewing techniques and temperament affect children as eyewitnesses and jurors' perceptions

Cotterill, Ben F.


Ben F. Cotterill


The aim of this research was to better understand how the temperament of a child witness may affect their eyewitness performance and the perception of mock-jurors during different interview conditions. In Study One, a new self-report method (the Temperament Assessment Tool for Children; TATC) was developed for assessing temperament traits in 4- to 8-year-old children. Internal consistency and test-retest reliability was found to be satisfactory overall with 202 participants. In Study Two, the same 4- to 8-year-old children watched a video of a theft and were interviewed using open, closed, or misleading questions about what they remembered. The children also completed the TATC. Witnesses in the open-ended condition were significantly more accurate overall than those in the other interview conditions. Temperament characteristics that limit attention (i.e., distractibility) predicted an overall higher number of errors during the interview, while misleading questions were particularly detrimental to the accuracy of less adaptable and less persistent children. In Study Three, a sample of 82 mock-jurors read transcripts of interviews with child witnesses (6 to 8 years old) from the previous study. Mock-jurors were randomly assigned to one of three interview conditions (open-ended, closed-ended, or misleading). The child witnesses varied in levels of shyness (i.e., high, moderate, and low) according to self-reports, gathered in the previous study. Contrary to the researcher's hypothesis, the findings indicated that interview condition had no impact on the mock-jurors’ perceived reliability of witnesses. Furthermore, the shyness of the child witness overall did not affect the perception of mock-jurors. Mock-juror perceptions were, however, influenced by their own personality traits. For example, those higher in withdrawal, an aspect of neuroticism, were more likely to rate child witnesses favourably. Overall, the results of this research provide some support for the assertion that certain temperament traits can impact the eyewitness performance of child witnesses and that closed-ended and misleading questions are unwise due to an overall decrease in accuracy.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 17, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 17, 2022
Public URL
Award Date Oct 28, 2021


How interviewing techniques and temperament affect children as eyewitnesses and jurors' perceptions (2.3 Mb)

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