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“Did She Do it on Purpose?” Young Children’s Accuracy for Questions About Intentions “Did She Do it on Purpose?” Young Children’s Accuracy for Questions.

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Presentation on theme: "“Did She Do it on Purpose?” Young Children’s Accuracy for Questions About Intentions “Did She Do it on Purpose?” Young Children’s Accuracy for Questions."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Did She Do it on Purpose?” Young Children’s Accuracy for Questions About Intentions “Did She Do it on Purpose?” Young Children’s Accuracy for Questions About Intentions J. Zoe Klemfuss 1 Sarah Kulkofsky 2 Stephen J. Ceci 1 1 Cornell University 2 Texas Tech University Abstract This study was designed to explore ways to maximize preschool aged children's abilities to answer difficult interview questions about intentions. We hypothesized that children would be more accurate when they were given two- option forced choice questions which emphasize that the interviewer is interested in intentions. We compared these binary forced choice questions to basic "yes/no" closed- ended questions concerning intentions. Our primary hypothesis was partially supported. Children performed equally well when they were asked either forced choice questions or yes/no questions in which the intention asked about matched the intention witnessed (ie: yes/no questions where the answer should be “yes”). Children were more accurate with each of these question types as compared to non-matching yes/no questions (ie: yes/no questions where the answer should be “no”), though the difference between forced choice questions and non-matching yes/no questions became marginal when controlled for multiple comparisons. There were no effects of age and children were generally biased to pick the second option when asked forced choice questions, and biased to respond “yes” to yes/no questions. Forensic applications are discussed. The Present Study The present study examined how question type (y/n-yes, y/n-no, 2-option forced choice) influenced children’s accuracy in responding to questions about the intentions behind witnessed events. We hypothesized that children would be more accurate when answering forced choice questions in which all options were present and yes/no questions in which the correct response was present (y/n-yes) as compared to yes/no questions in which the correct response was absent (y/n-no). Interview Questions: Who was taller, the grown up or the little girl? Did the little girl play on the swings before the slide? Did the little girl have brown or blond hair? Was the climbing structure made of plastic? Did the grown up bump into the little girl? Did the grown up kick the soccer ball by accident? Did the grown up spill the water on purpose or by accident? Did the grown up have a red jacket? Did the grown up go down the slide or did the little girl go down the slide? Did one of the girls slide down the handrails of the stairs? Did the grown up push the little girl on the swing, or did the little girl push the grown up? Did the grown up spill the water? Did the little girl sit on the swing? Did the two kids come with the grown up or meet her there? Did the grown up bump into the little girl on purpose? Did the little girl fall off the climbing structure? Did the grown up kick the soccer ball? Did the little girl get to the park first, or did the grown up? Did the grown up drop the doll by accident? Did the grown up throw the basketball on purpose? Did the grown up step on the flower on purpose or by accident? Was the grown up nice or mean? Results (cont.) Linear contrasts revealed that children are no better at forced choice questions than they are at yes/no questions overall (ie: matching and non matching yes/no questions combined). Children were more accurate overall when they were asked about an event that was an accident, than when they were asked about an event that was purposeful. When children were asked questions involving intentions, overall they were biased to respond “yes” if they were asked a yes/no question (d’ = -0.54, C = -0.5), and they were biased to say that a witnessed act was an accident if they were given a forced choice (d’fc = 0.25, Cfc = 0.42). Introduction Accuracy and Interviewing Techniques Research on child interviewing techniques has found that the majority of questions used in forensic interviews are yes/no and forced choice (Warren, A.R., Woodall, C.E., Hunt, J.S., & Perry, N.W., 1996). However, there has been little study of the specific effects of these question types on the accuracy of children’s responses, especially in situations in which the subject matter may be challenging for children. Questions about intentions may be particularly difficult for young children. Research on the development of intentional understanding has taken two complementary perspectives. The first line of research is largely cognitive and emphasizes children’s early abilities to understand the intentions of others. The second line, focusing on linguistic research, has demonstrated the limitations of young children’s understanding of intentions. Although the ability to comprehend others’ intentions may exist at a very young age, children may not be able to verbally communicate this understanding effectively until much later. Cognitive Evidence for Early Comprehension: Ex: Children can produce an adult’s intended action, even when the adult is unsuccessful in completing the act, by 18 months (Meltzoff, 1995). Linguistic Evidence for Delayed Communicative Ability: Ex: Children cannot accurately report that two people who perform an act with different goals in mind have different intentions until 5 years of age (Baird & Moses, 2001). Methods Seventy-nine preschool children (M = 51.1 months; N = 40 female) participated. Children watched a video about an adult and a child playing on a playground. The video contained three target “intention” events- the adult kicked a soccer ball, bumped into the child, and spilled a cup of water. Each child saw all three events, but the order and intention of each event was randomized for each child. Next, children were asked 22 yes/no and 2-option forced choice questions about the video. There were four randomized question orders and children were randomly assigned to a question order. Each child was asked a 2- option forced choice about an event, a y/n-yes question about a different event, and a y/n-no question about another event. Conclusion On the whole, it seems that preschool-aged children have difficulty in accurately responding to questions about intentions. This difficulty partially manifests itself in a bias to respond “yes” when asked yes/no questions, and in a bias to respond “accident” (second option) when asked whether an event was performed on purpose or by accident. The finding that children have “yes” biases when asked about intentional events is not surprising given the literature on leading and suggestive questioning (Bruck & Ceci, 1999). Children were most accurate when they were asked yes/no questions in which the answer should be “yes”, or when asked forced choice questions in which they were presented with both possible answers. Children were the least accurate when asked yes/no questions in which the answer should be “no”. These results may have come about because including the correct response within the question (ie: “Did she do it on purpose?” when she did do it on purpose) cues children’s memory of the original event. However, it is important to consider the findings that overall, children are no more accurate at yes/no questions than they are at 2-option forced choice questions because in forensic interviews interviewers do not know whether the answer to forensically relevant questions should be “yes” or “no”. References:Results The main findings are that when asked about other people’s intentions, children appear to be equally accurate at matching yes/no questions and 2-option forced choice questions. They are significantly better at matching yes/no questions as compared to non matching yes/no questions and marginally better at forced choice questions as compared to non matching yes/no questions. Baird, J.A. and Moses, L.J. (2001). Do Preschoolers Appreciate That Identical Actions May Be Motivated by Different Intentions? Journal of Cognition and Development, 2(4), Bruck, M. & Ceci, S.J. (1999). The suggestibility of children’s memory. Annual Review of Psychology, 50. Meltzoff, A.N. (1995). Understanding the Intentions of Others: Re-Enactment of Intended Acts by 18-Month-Old Children. Developmental Psychology, 31(5), Warren, A.R., Woodall, C.E., Hunt, J.S., Perry, N.W. (1996). “It Sounds Good in Theory, But…”: Do Investigative Interviewers Follow Guidelines Based on Memory Research?. Child Maltreatment, 1, 231. VariableIntention Question Type Intentio nQuestion TypeEstimateChi-SquareP-value IntentionAccident Purpos e <0.01 Question Type Forced Choice Y/N-yes Question Type Forced Choice Y/N-no Question Type Y/N-yesY/N-no <0.01 Table 1. :Linear contrasts predicting accuracy from intention asked and question type


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