Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The present study investigated the impact of individual differences on children's eyewitness memory skills. Preschool (mean age of 4 years 8 months) and elementary (mean age of 11 years and 3 months) aged school children played a 5 minute game of Simon Says with an unknown male confederate. The children's memories for the game and the man with whom they played the game were assessed on an objective questionnaire, free recall and photo recognition task. Both the free recall and the objective questionnaire were given immediately after the game and exactly one week later. Half of the subjects were exposed to misleading postevent information, immediately after the event.

Several measures of individual differences were obtained from the children. The children's ages, sex, and visual and verbal short term memories were directly assessed. Parents provided measures of the children's anxiety, dependency, ego strength, intellectual functioning, attention, impulse control, reality contact, and social conformity using a standardized behavior rating scale. All of these variables were investigated to determine their impact on the various measures of eyewitness memory skills.

Overall the older children performed significantly better than the younger children on the objective questionnaire, they were more expansive and accurate in their free recalls, they were less suggestible, and they were more accurate in identifying the man with whom they played the game from the photo lineup.

Children with inferior short term memory skills demonstrated a deficit in their performance on the objective questionnaire and their ability to resist postevent information. In addition children with an inability to sustain attention were more suggestible. The results suggest that age is not the only factor which the courts should use to determine the reliability of children's eyewitness testimonies. The impact of short term memory skills, time delays, and attention could provide the courts with additional valuable information.

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Psychology Commons