Collaborative Research: The Impact of Cuing and Comfort Drawing on the Eyewitness Testimony of Behaviorally Inhibited and Uninhibited Children

Project Details


This award is funded under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).

Protocols for conducting forensic interviews of children should be informed by research, but interviewers who obtain evidence from alleged victims of abuse frequently use unresearched techniques. This project examines two popular procedures: cuing event reports with body outlines and comfort drawing, which is the practice of encouraging children to draw as a calming activity. Both techniques are intended to take pressure off anxious children, but explicit cuing and play could reduce the accuracy of reports. An important feature of this project is the inclusion of parent and observational measures of behavioral inhibition, a temperamental trait associated with little spontaneous speech. If body outlines or drawing activities encourage more detailed and accurate testimony, the benefits should be especially evident among behaviorally inhibited children.

Participating children (ages 4- to 9-years) completed a study that evaluated how two interviewing protocols impact eyewitness accuracy. The children were exposed to target events, repeatedly told about nonexperienced events, and randomly assigned to interviewing protocols. One protocol included free-recall, specific, and source-monitoring questions, whereas the second included cued-recall, free-recall, and source-monitoring questions.

Study 1 adds measures of behavioral inhibition to the existing data set, thereby permitting analyses of accuracy as a function of temperament. Study 2 exposes children to a new event and conducts final interviews in comfort drawing and no comfort drawing conditions. This study therefore evaluates the long-term impact of memory cuing and determines how a distracting activity influences the eyewitness accuracy of behaviorally inhibited and uninhibited children. Results from these studies will advance forensic interviewing practice by determining the impact of cuing and comfort drawing on children's testimonial and source monitoring accuracy. The project will also guide future research by revealing whether temperamental measures help evaluate tradeoffs between the emotional and cognitive consequences of interviewing techniques.

Effective start/end date15/08/0931/07/12


  • National Science Foundation: $76,677.00


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