The effect of using neutral visual aids in interviewing child eyewitnesses – improving or hindering their recall?
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To improve the accuracy of the information gathered from child witnesses in the form of descriptions of people and events, several methods and props have been used during investigative interviews – model standards, anatomical dolls and body maps. There are still many discrepancies regarding the suggestiveness and effectiveness of these methods compared to verbal interviews. An experiment was conducted to examine whether the provision of neutral aids (colour palette, pictures of daily activities and seasons) during interviewing would improve pre-schoolers’ accuracy of memory for colour and time; and whether it leads children to change their initial answers. The study involved 169 six- to seven-year-old children who took part in a scripted event that involved seeing and briefly interacting with a stranger during his visit to the kindergarten. One week later half-structured interviews with children were conducted. The experiment showed that neutral visual aids had an effect on the volume of total and false information, but not on true information or accuracy. Using neutral aids during interviews increased the amount of information children were able to provide about time and colour, however also increasing the amount of false information. Furthermore, when questions were repeated using neutral visual aids, children reported additional information in total, as well as additional false information. The results indicate that even neutral aids may lead children to provide more details as well as change their answers, which in turn hinders their recall. Therefore, using visual aids should be treated with care when used in practice.