Does it help, hurt, or something else? The effect of a something else response alternative on children's performance on forced-choice questions

Kamala London, Ashley K. Hall, Nicole E. Lytle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Forensic guidelines recommend minimizing forced-choice questions when interviewing children. We investigated whether adding a "something else" alternative to forced-choice questions affected 3- to 5-year-olds' (N = 94) reports of an event involving innocuous touch. Following a 1-week delay, children were randomly assigned to receive either standard 2-alternative forced-choice questions or the same questions with an additional something else alternative. All children received 3 counterbalanced question types: correct alternative present, no correct alternative present, and unanswerable. Children's overall accuracy was not affected by the something else alternative except on questions with no correct alternative present, where performance went from 15% to 31% accurate. Children selected or generated inaccurate and speculative responses to the majority of unanswerable questions regardless of a something else alternative. These findings suggest that the inclusion of a something else alternative does not bypass concerns about the use of forced-choice questions during interviews with children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-289
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017



  • Children's eyewitness testimony
  • Forced-choice questions
  • Forensic interviews
  • Questioning techniques
  • Something else alternative

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