Fact or Fiction? Adults' Ability to Judge Children's Memory Reports

This study examined adults' ability to discern children's true and false memory reports. Jury-eligible community members (N = 329) watched video-clips from children's interviews about a memory event involving a secret and rated various attributes related to children's perceived cognitive ability and honesty. Video-clips were divided into eight experimental conditions based on event type (secret, no secret), child response (report, denial) and child age (5-6 years, 7-8 years). Overall, adults were more likely to believe reports over denials, but they were likely to be misled by both false reports and false denials. When children were asked to keep a secret, adults believed children who reported more than those who incorrectly denied, but when children were not asked to keep a secret, adults believed children who falsely reported more than those who accurately denied. This presents a problem for the legal system. If jurors are unable to correctly assess the accuracy of children's statements, there are serious risks for the miscarriage of justice in child maltreatment cases.