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The delicate handling of "don't know" responses during interviews with children (and everyone else) Alan Scoboria, PhD, CPsych.

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Presentation on theme: "The delicate handling of "don't know" responses during interviews with children (and everyone else) Alan Scoboria, PhD, CPsych."— Presentation transcript:

1 The delicate handling of "don't know" responses during interviews with children (and everyone else) Alan Scoboria, PhD, CPsych

2 Interviewing witnesses and victims  Problem statement: more kids appearing in court  Shift to relying upon childrens’ report

3 The interviewer’s dilemma  Obtain available accurate information, while minimizing acquisition of distorted or fabricated information.

4 Consequences if things go poorly  Erroneous information  Wasted time  Invalidated witness  Miscarriages of justice

5 Consequences if things go well  Increased confidence in information  Witnesses more likely to withstand cross-examination  Justice is well-served

6 Effective interviews  Emphasize free recall  Minimize suggestion  Avoid misleading questioning

7 Young children  Free recall = underreporting  Pulls for additional questioning

8 The quantity / accuracy trade-off  Forced responding  Free responding Individual has the freedom to refuse to respond, express ignorance, or to say “I don’t know”

9 The quantity / accuracy trade-off

10 Don’t know responses  Why are DK responses desirable? Reflect monitoring of knowledge Willingness to admit limits of knowledge Ability to resist pressure

11  “In experimental tasks, or real-life interviews, it is rare to see subjects, of any age, being told that they do not have to give an answer to a question.” Moston, 1987, p69

12 What to do with DK responses?  Ignore them, move on may lose access to information  Restate the question, push for more may pressure responses, promote guessing, even suggest answers  Investigate the response

13 Handling DK responses in interviews  Force responses?  Encourage?  Discourage?

14 Handling DK responses in interviews  In testing situations, forced responding may be desirable Mondak and Davis, 2002

15 Handling DK responses in interviews  Forced responding promotes guessing Koriat, Goldsmith, Schneider, & Nakash-Dura, 2001 Roebers, Moga & Schneider, 2001

16 Children and DK responding  Younger children tend to underutilize DK responses Geiselman & Padilla, 1988 Cassel, Roebers & Bjorklund, 1996 Roebers & Schneider, 2000

17 Children and DK responding  Children can improve monitoring Accuracy motivation enhances use of DK responses and improves accuracy. Effectiveness generally follows developmental lines. Koriat, Goldsmith, Schneider & Nakash-Dura (2001) Roebers, Moga & Schneider (2001)

18 Children and DK responding  Developmental trajectory < about age 6; low spontaneous production > age 7, many of the concepts are in place, use improves dramatically > age 9/10, often perform very similar to adults

19 Children and DK responding  Encouraging DK responding Risk of “DK response set” Moston, 1987

20 Children and DK responding  Simple instructions – mixed results; more effective with adults  Complex instructions – more effective with children Mulder & Vrij, 1996; Nesbitt & Markham, 1999

21 Children and DK responding  Informational influence May view interview as a test for which the interviewers has the answers Mulder & Vrij, 1996 Waterman, Blades & Spenser, 2004 Malian & Scoboria, in progress

22 Children and DK responding  Question types and DK responding y/n, closed ended – lower DK responding Wh-, open ended – higher DK responding Peterson, Dowdin & Tobin, 1999 Peterson & Grant, 2001 Waterman, Blades & Spenser, 2001

23 Answerable vs. Unanswerable questions  Enhanced risk of speculation to leading unanswerable questions y/n closed ended questions Leading questions may operate by implying that an answer is available A leading question about something that is unknown is misleading

24 DK statements and communication  Substantive responses Admitting ignorance I never saw that I might have seen that, but I can’t remember the specific details

25 DK statements and communication  Choosing not to respond

26 DK statements and communication  Unwillingness to respond  Exert power within interview  Avoid self-implication  Lying by omission

27 Yes, it is more complex  DK responses when witnesses have been coached  DK responses after multiple interviews, or previous poor interviews  DK responses as costs to interviewee increase (i.e., parent is suspect)  DK responses in suspects

28 Limitations of the research literature  No work on DK responses in developmentally delayed children  No work on meaning of DK responses in children  Implications of exploring DK responses not well understood  Naturalistic studies are needed

29 Take home points  Accepting DK responses appears essential  Encouraging them appears advisable  Balancing encouraging / discouraging DK responses is challenging

30 Take home points  Children ages 9-10+ frequently use DK effectively  Children ages 6-8 often demonstrate monitoring ability  Children < 6 often show poorer monitoring ability

31 Take home points  Attend to informational influence (what the interviewer “knows”)  Avoiding question types which undermine use of DK responses  Using developmentally appropriate language

32 Acknowledgements  Lisa Dadd  Stephanie Fisico  Mark Frey  Amanda Harris  Irving Kirsch  Giuliana Mazzoni  Julie Malian  Chris Reid  Hoa Trang Funding sources Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada University of Windsor

33 Contact information Alan Scoboria Associate Professor of Psychology Department of Psychology 401 Sunset Windsor, ON, Canada N9B3P4 email: phone: 001-519-253-3000 x4090

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