Deficient cognitive control fuels children's exuberant false allegations

Debra Ann Poole, Jason J. Dickinson, Sonja P. Brubacher, Allison E. Liberty, Amanda M. Kaake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In eyewitness studies as in actual investigations, a minority of children generate numerous false (and sometimes incredulous) allegations. To explore the characteristics of these children, we reinterviewed and administered a battery of tasks to 61 children (ages 4-9. years) who had previously participated in an eyewitness study where a man broke a "germ rule" twice when he tried to touch them. Performance on utilization, response conflict (Luria tapping), and theory of mind tasks predicted the number of false reports of touching (with age and time since the event controlled) and correctly classified 90.16% of the children as typical witnesses or exuberant (more than 3) false reporters. Results of a factor analysis pointed to a common process underlying performance on these tasks that accounted for 49% of the variability in false reports. Relations between task performance and testimony confirmed that the mechanisms underlying occasional intrusions are different from those that drive persistent confabulation and that deficient cognitive control fuels young children's exuberant false reports.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-109
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Body diagrams
  • Children
  • Cognitive control
  • Confabulation
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • False allegations


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