Improving children's recall of an occurrence of a repeated event: is it a matter of helping them to generate options?

Law and human behavior

PubMedID: 12916226

Powell MB, Thomson DM. Improving children's recall of an occurrence of a repeated event: is it a matter of helping them to generate options?. Law Hum Behav. 2003;27(4):365-84.
Three experiments were conducted to explore whether children's recall of an occurrence of a repeated event could be improved by encouraging them to consider various details that occurred across a series of events prior to making a judgment about which details were included in the target (to-be-recalled) occurrence. Experiment 1 explored whether children's recall of the target occurrence was better after the interviewer presented all the items from the series prior to the child identifying the final item. Experiment 2 explored whether having the children generate all the items facilitated their subsequent recall of the target occurrence. Finally, Experiment 3 directly compared the effectiveness of the above 2 procedures. Regardless of the children's age, the retention interval, or the type of item, children's capacity to identify which details were included in a target occurrence was enhanced when they were initially provided with all the possible details from the series of events. However, without relying on the interviewer to generate the options, the benefit of the technique was directly contingent on the children's ability to generate content details; this was a distinct source of difficulty for the children. Indeed, having children generate options had no beneficial effect on decisions about the temporal position of items unless performance was made conditional on the children's ability to remember the relevant details in the first place. The implications of the findings for the legal setting and for future research are discussed.