Elizabeth F. Loftus & J. Zoe Klemfuss (2023) Misinformation – past, present, and future, Psychology, Crime & Law, DOI: 10.1080/1068316X.2023.2219813

Decades of research have provided clear support for the misinformation effect. Exposure to misinformation after an event takes place puts memory accuracy at risk. Experts have long warned of the dangers of this phenomenon in legal contexts (e.g. for eyewitness memory) and new concerns about misinformation and its pervasiveness have arisen in recent years in the context of ‘fake news’. We need new approaches to combat misinformation and prevent its potential far-reaching consequences in real-world contexts with major implications for societal issues such as legal justice, community health, and politics. Here we briefly review the misinformation effect and call for an expansion of the small body of literature on means to prevent and correct misinformation. We end by discussing the new challenges technology and social media pose to memory and knowledge accuracy and propose new research directions to combat this changing landscape of misinformation delivery.

Klemfuss J. Z., Peplak J. The influence of parent conversation goal and structure on children’s event reports. Cognitive Development. 2023;66:101333. DOI: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2023.101333

Parents vary in conversational goals and style when discussing events with their children—two aspects of parent socialization that may be related, or exert opposing influence on the development of young children’s report accuracy (a critical factor in children’s eyewitness reports). In a sample of 116 parent-child dyads (Mage = 53.17 months, range: 36–72 months), we examined the roles of parent social conversation goals (parent-reported and experimentally manipulated) and parent cognitive elaboration in children’s ability to accurately report about a laboratory event. Parent cognitive elaboration varied by conversation goal and was positively associated with child accuracy across age but only when parents strongly endorsed social conversation goals. Parent questioning strategies and children’s response accuracy varied with age. This work has implications for how we understand short- and long-term impacts caregivers exert on children’s event reporting and suggests that even very young children are sensitive to variations in parent questioning practices.

Slonecker, E. M., & Klemfuss, J. Z. (2023). Yes, no, maybe so: Caregiver autonomy support, conversation context, and children’s memory performance. Developmental Psychology, 59(2), 285–296.

The extant literature on the use of autonomy support during caregiver–child conversations has focused primarily on conversations about fun, shared experiences, with limited consideration of unshared experiences or attention toward the role of conversation context. The present study examined how autonomy support, conversation context, and child age interact to predict 3-to-5-year-old children’s disclosure of accurate information when discussing an unshared past event with their caregiver and an experimenter. Dyads (N = 111) were recruited from two locations (Miami, Florida and Orange County, California) by research recruitment firms. Children completed a standardized activity alone and then discussed the activity with their caregiver. The context of the discussion was manipulated so that dyads focused on either accumulating facts (Fact condition) or having fun (Fun condition). Afterward, children discussed the activity with a neutral interviewer. Caregivers in the fact condition were less autonomy supportive when discussing the activity than those in the fun condition. During the caregiver–child interview, caregiver autonomy support was negatively associated with children’s disclosure of correct event details for those in the fun condition only. Caregiver autonomy support was negatively associated with children’s correct details during the experiment–child interview across both context conditions. While older children provided more correct details during both interviews, there were no other age-related effects. These results demonstrate that conversation context moderates the link between autonomy support and children’s autobiographical memory performance. Past contradictory findings in the field are discussed in light of these results.

Peplak J. & ​Klemfuss J. Z. (2022) Fact- and emotion-focused conversations elicit differential patterns of reporting and distress in children, Cognition and Emotion, 36:7, 1420-1428.

We examined the role of emotion- versus fact-focused conversations in the details children reported about a stressful event and whether the details provided were prompted or spontaneously offered. We also tested how these conversational strategies, in conjunction with children’s emotion regulation skills, influenced children’s event-related distress. Children (N = 100 8- to 13-year-olds) experienced a stressor in the laboratory and were randomly assigned to participate in a fact-focused conversation (prompted about objective event elements) or an emotion-focused conversation (prompted about subjective reactions to the event) with an unfamiliar adult. Caregivers reported on children’s emotion regulation skills. Children reported more overall prompted and spontaneous details in the fact-focused condition, but reported proportionally more spontaneous details than prompted detail in the emotion-focused condition compared to the fact-focused condition. Children with lower emotion regulation skills found the emotion-focused conversation (but not the fact-focused conversation) about the laboratory stressor significantly less distressing than children with high emotion regulation skills (when controlling for initial distress about the task). We propose that combining both fact- and emotion-focused conversational techniques may be most effective for encouraging detailed disclosures from children and for providing a respite from distress for children with emotion-regulation difficulties.

Peplak, J., Klemfuss, J. Z., & Ditto, P. H. (2022). Schadenfreude and Sympathy Following President Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis: Influence on Pre-Election Voting Intentions. Journal of Social and Political Psychology10(1), 353-368.
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Schadenfreude and sympathy are often experienced at the intergroup level; however, little research has been conducted to examine their role in one of the most prominent and emotionally evocative intergroup contexts: the political arena. In this study, we assessed a sample of 506 Americans’ (Age M = 41.69 years, SD = 13.94; 57% women) schadenfreude and sympathy (and related cognitions) in response to then-President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis (a salient misfortune of a contentious political figure), and how their schadenfreude, sympathy, and related cognitions were associated with shifts in voting intentions (own and public’s) in the 2020 Presidential Election. We also examined trends in, and associations between, these variables by political affiliation (focusing on Democrats and Republicans) and gender (focusing on men and women). Unsurprisingly, compared to Republicans, Democrats expressed more schadenfreude and less sympathy. Contrary to previous research, however, Democrats’ experiences of schadenfreude were tempered and were primarily driven by deservingness beliefs rather than intergroup competition or malice). Amongst Republicans only, men experienced stronger schadenfreude than women. Regarding voting intentions, participants were more likely to report that the diagnosis would impact shifts in the public’s voting than their own voting, primarily in favor of the Democratic Party. Feelings of schadenfreude and sympathy were not significantly associated with anticipated shifts—rather, those who believed then-President Trump’s diagnosis was deserved (cognition strongly associated with schadenfreude) were four times more likely to believe the public would change their vote to the Democratic Party. These findings are discussed in relation to research at the intersection of psychology and political science and have implications for politicians and psychologists who aim to understand emotions underlying partisanship and voting behavior.

Peplak, J., Klemfuss, J. Z., and Yates, T. M. (2021). Parent-Adolescent Conversations About COVID-19 Influence Adolescents’ Empathic Concern and Adherence to Health Protective Behaviors. J. Adolesc. Health [Preprint].

This longitudinal investigation assessed how the frequency of parent-adolescent conversations about COVID-19, moderated by adolescents' stress, influenced adolescents' empathic concern and adherence to health protective behaviors (HPBs) throughout the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bailey N. A., Olaguez A. P., Klemfuss J. Z., & Loftus E. F. (2021). Tactics for increasing resistance to misinformation. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 35(4), 863-872.

This study was the first to test both the independent and additive effects of change-detection prompts and warnings about potential discrepancies between an event and post-event information on susceptibility to misinformation. Participants (N = 239) viewed a mock crime video, read a post-event narrative containing misinformation, and completed a memory test about the video content. Participants were randomly assigned to change-detection and warning conditions. Ecological validity was enhanced by describing the materials as a police training exercise and by examining effects of one versus four misinformation items (opposed to typically higher rates in experimental research). Using a novel statistical approach for this topic (GLMM), we compared across the misinformation quantities participants received. Change-detection prompts, but not a pre-warning, decreased misinformation rates, and the effect of change-detection was not enhanced by a pre-warning. Results held regardless of misinformation quantity. These findings emphasize the utility of change-detection mechanisms for increasing misinformation resistance.

Shaffer, S., Compo, N. S., Klemfuss, J. Z., Peplak, J., & Mejias, J. (2021). Law enforcement investigation of non-sexual child abuse: Physical abuse, neglect and Abusive Head Trauma. The International Journal of Evidence & Proof25(2), 75–92.

This study examined the experiences of law enforcement in investigating physical abuse, neglect and Abusive Head Trauma (AHT). Law enforcement (N = 388) in the United States were surveyed regarding case characteristics, investigative strategy, interrogative approaches, frequency/content of perpetrator admissions and interagency interaction across cases of physical abuse, neglect and AHT. Results revealed that exposure rates matched those of national statistics. AHT perpetrators reported to admit guilt less often than suspects of physical abuse and neglect. Participants reported that suspects explain physical abuse and AHT by referencing poor self-control as a common cause. Lack of financial resources was commonly reported as the explanation for neglect. Potentially coercive interviewing techniques were reported across abuse types but were more frequent in cases of AHT. AHT cases were reportedly hardest to prove/prosecute partially due to conflicting medical diagnoses. Potential implications for law enforcement investigative (interviewing) policies and future research are discussed.

J. Z. Klemfuss, Emily M. Slonecker, Kimia Akhavein & Deepali M. Dhruve (2021) Subcultural, ideological, and valence-based differences in caregiver reminiscing functions, Memory, 29:2, 210-223.

Researchers have identified cultural differences in caregiver beliefs about the functions of parent–child reminiscing. However, this work has largely been limited to comparisons between Asian or Asian American and European American caregivers discussing autobiographical events, broadly. In the present study, 365 caregivers of 3- to 12-year-old children from four U.S. subcultures (African, Asian, European, and Hispanic/LatinX) reported about the functions of discussing positive and negative past events with their child, and about their collectivist values. Overall, positive events were discussed more often than negative events and all reminiscing functions were endorsed more strongly for positive events. European Americans endorsed directive functions for positive events least of the three primary functions, and endorsed them less than the other three subcultural groups. All four subculture groups endorsed directive functions equally and more strongly than other functions when discussing negative events. More collectivist attitudes predicted stronger endorsement of all conversation functions except directive functions for negative events. This research is poised to expand our understanding of how caregivers from different subcultural groups, and with different culture-based values, may attempt to shape their children’s worldview through reminiscing and how the functions caregivers emphasise shift depending on the valence of the event under discussion.

Slonecker, E. M., & Klemfuss, J. Z. (2020). Caregiver-child reminiscing and recounting across contexts. Cognitive Development56, 100947.

Caregiver-child dyads discuss unshared experiences on a daily basis. Yet, most research explores how dyads discuss shared experiences, with limited examination of how caregivers elicit information when discussing unshared experiences. The present study examined how caregivers modify their narrative style across the two conversation types, while also considering conversation goal and child recall. Eighty-six dyads discussed a shared past experience and unshared play activity experienced by the child. Caregivers were randomly assigned to discuss the play activity with the goal of gathering facts or having fun. Caregivers varied their conversation style when discussing the unshared event relative to the shared event and modified their conversation style somewhat depending on the assigned conversation goal. Caregivers’ conversation styles and child individual characteristics predicted children’s provision of correct information about the activity. Results preliminarily suggest caregivers use a unique approach to talk about unshared relative to shared events.

Klemfuss, J. Z., & Musser, E. D. (2020). Talking about emotions: Effects of emotion-focused interviewing on children's physiological regulation of stress and discussion of the subjective elements of a stressful experience. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 198, 104920.

This is the first study to examine the effect of questioning children about emotions and cognitions versus facts on children’s stress reactivity and regulation, as well as children’s abilities to discuss their subjective experiences, in the context of adult–child discussions about a stressful event. A total of 80 8- to 12-year-old children participated in a stressful laboratory task (i.e., Trier Social Stress Test). Following the task, half of the children were engaged in an emotion-focused conversation with an adult interviewer about the event, and half were engaged in a fact-focused conversation. Electrodermal and cardiac preejection activity and respiratory sinus arrhythmia were derived at baseline, during the laboratory stressor, and during the conversation to index stress reactivity and regulation. Children’s narratives were coded for indicators of emotion processing (i.e., positive and negative emotion words, cognitive words [e.g., think, know]). Children’s English language abilities, self-reported stress, and several parent-report measures (demographics, child life stress, and children’s emotion regulation strategies) were also obtained. Results indicate that the emotion-focused interview facilitated children’s discussions of their subjective experiences without increasing their stress reactivity and that children showed enhanced physiological stress regulation during the emotion-focused interview. This research will be of interest to those in the fields of child narratives, stress, and social context as well as to parents and practitioners interested in improving children’s understanding, reporting, and recovery after stressful experiences.

Olaguez, A. P., & Klemfuss, J. Z. (2020). Differential effects of direct and cross examination on mock jurors’ perceptions and memory in cases of child sexual abuse. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law27(5), 778–796.

When children testify in cases of child sexual abuse (CSA), they often provide minimal responses to attorneys’ questions. Thus, how attorneys ask questions may be particularly influential in shaping jurors’ perceptions and memory for case details. This study examined mock jurors’ perceptions after reading an excerpt of a CSA trial transcript. Participants’ memory of the excerpt was tested after a two-day delay. We examined how reading a direct or cross-examination excerpt that included either high or low temporal structure impacted participants’ perceptions, verdict decisions and memory reports. We found that participants who read a direct examination excerpt rated the child witness as more credible, were more likely to convict the defendant and had more accurate memory reports than those who read a cross-examination excerpt, regardless of temporal structure. Suggestions for improving jurors’ comprehension and recall of child statements presented as evidence in CSA cases are discussed.

Klemfuss, J. Z., McWilliams, K., Henderson, H. M., Olaguez, A. P., & Lyon, T. D. (2020). Order of encoding predicts young children's responses to sequencing questions. Cognitive Development, 55, 100927.

We propose that young children exhibit an order of encoding bias, such that they are inclined to report or act out events in the order in which they were originally encoded. This bias helps to explain why children assume that events they first hear described are in chronological order and why they often appear to understand “after” better than “before” when they are questioned about experienced events. Asking children about a sequence of events as a whole (in particular using “first”) could avoid order of encoding biases, because children would not have to answer questions about events within the sequence. In the present study, 100 2- to 4-year-old children participated in creating simple stories in which a story child interacted with five objects, thus creating five unrelated events. Children then responded to questions asking them to identify which action occurred “before” and “after” the third event and which action occurred “first” and “last” in the story. We hypothesized that (1) children would exhibit a tendency to answer “before” and “after” questions with the event that occurred after the queried event, thus impairing performance on “before” questions; (2) children would respond more accurately to questions about what occurred “first” and “last” than to questions about “before” and “after”; (3) children would respond more accurately to questions about “first” than questions about “last,” and (4) children’s performance would improve with age. The hypotheses were supported. Critically, children’s errors when responding to “before”/ “after” questions were consistent with an order of encoding bias.

Mindthoff, A., Evans, J. R., Perez, G., Woestehoff, S. A., Olaguez, A. P., Klemfuss, J. Z., Vallano, J. P., Woody, W. D., Normile, C. J., Scherr, K. C., Carlucci, M. E., Carol, R. N., Hayes, T., Meissner, C. A., Michael, S. W., Russano, M. B., & Stocks, E. L. (2020). Juror Perceptions of Intoxicated Suspects’ Interrogation-Related Behaviors. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 47(2), 222–246.

Alcohol-intoxicated suspects’ confessions are admissible in U.S. courts; however, it is unknown how jurors evaluate such confessions. Study 1 assessed potential jurors’ perceptions of intoxication in interrogative contexts. Many respondents were unaware that questioning intoxicated suspects and presenting subsequent confessions in court are legal, and respondents generally reported they would rely less on intoxicated than sober confessions. In Study 2, potential jurors read a case about a defendant who had confessed or not while sober or intoxicated. Participants who read about an intoxicated defendant perceived the interrogation as more inappropriate and the defendant as more cognitively impaired than did participants who read about a sober defendant, and as a result, they were less likely to convict. Furthermore, intoxicated confessions influenced conviction decisions to a lesser extent than did sober confessions. Findings suggest that investigators might consider abstaining from interrogating intoxicated suspects or else risk jurors finding confessions unconvincing in court.

Wang, Q., Koh, J. B. K., Santacrose, D., Song, Q., Klemfuss, J. Z., & Doan, S. N. (2019). Child-centered memory conversations facilitate children’s episodic memory. Cognitive Development, 51, 58-66.

Episodic thinking is involved in the representation of specific personal events occurring at a particular time and place. Although a fundamental human cognitive faculty directly associated with neurocognitive functioning, episodic thinking and its development is subject to sociocultural experiences. This study integrated experimental and longitudinal approaches to test the effect of training mothers to have child-centered memory conversations – the type of conversations frequently observed in Western families – on children’s episodic thinking. Six-year-old Chinese and European American children (N = 103) were pretested and randomly assigned to a maternal training or control condition. In the following 6 months, mothers were encouraged to share memories with their children, and those in the training condition were further asked to focus the conversation on their children’s thoughts, desires, and feelings. One year after the completion of training, children of training group mothers represented past and future events in greater episodic detail than those of control group mothers. These findings provide critical experimental evidence for the development of episodic thinking as a sociocultural process.

Borelli, J. L., Klemfuss, J. Z., & Hollas, K. (2019). Language style matching in preschooler-adult dyads: Associations with dyad familiarity and children’s age. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 38(5-6), 787-797.

Language style matching (LSM) offers promise as an unobtrusive measure of synchrony between members of conversational dyads, but no studies have explored key questions related to LSM in developmental context. We examined LSM in young children’s (N = 87, Mage = 54.63 months) interactions with caregivers versus experimenters, and evaluated links between LSM and expressive vocabulary. LSM was significantly higher among caregiver–child than experimenter–child dyads and was positively associated with children’s expressive vocabulary.

Mindthoff, A., Evans, J. R., Perez, G., Woestehoff, S. A., Olaguez, A. P., Klemfuss, J. Z., … Woody, W. D. (2018). A survey of potential jurors’ perceptions of interrogations and confessions. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 24(4), 430-448.

Confessions represent one of the most influential types of evidence, and research has shown that mock jurors often fail to dismiss unreliable confession evidence. However, recent studies suggest that jurors might believe in the false confession phenomenon more than they once did. One possible reason for this could be increased publicity regarding false confession cases. To assess this possibility, we administered an extensive online survey to a sample of potential jurors in the United States from 11 universities and Amazon Mechanical Turk. Perceptions of confession behaviors (as related to others and oneself), Miranda waivers, interrogation methods, dispositional risk factors, and confession admissibility and evidentiary weight were assessed, in addition to respondents’ self-reported crime-media activity and familiarity with disputed confession cases. Respondents’ perceptions were generally consistent with empirical research findings. Respondents believed suspects do not understand their Miranda rights; gauged interrogation tactics usage relatively accurately; viewed psychologically coercive tactics as coercive and more likely to result in false, rather than true, confessions; and recognized that confessions elicited via coercive measures should be inadmissible as evidence in court. However, respondents’ perceptions did not align with research on interrogation length, and respondents did not fully appreciate the risk youth poses in interrogations. Moreover, being familiar with disputed confession cases resulted in more negative views of interrogations and confessions. Overall, potential jurors are seemingly more cognizant of false confessions and the tactics that elicit them than in the past, and evidence suggests that media outlets can be used to promote interrogation and confession knowledge.

Olaguez, A. P., Castro, A., Cleveland, K. C., Klemfuss, J. Z., & Quas, J. A. (2018). Using implicit encouragement to increase narrative productivity in children. Preliminary evidence and legal implications. Journal of Child Custody, 15(4), 286-301.

Statements made by children in a range of legal settings can irrevocably impact their family structure, relationships, and living environment. Because these statements can fundamentally alter children’s futures, efforts have been made to identify methods to enhance children’s reports by increasing comprehensiveness, completeness, and accuracy. Interviewer support has broadly been considered a method of interest, but variations in what constitutes “support” have highlighted the need for greater specificity in documenting how different facets of supportive behaviors relate to children’s reporting tendencies. In this review, we describe work focused on the effects of interviewer support, on children’s memory completeness and accuracy. We then describe to a subset of interviewer behaviors that encourage elaboration in dyadic interactions: back-channeling and vocatives. We present preliminary evidence suggesting that these utterances, referred to as implicit encouragement, can increase the amount of detail provided without compromising accuracy. Implications for custody evaluations are discussed.

Klemfuss, J. Z., Wallin, A. R., & Quas, J. A. (2018). Attachment, household chaos, and children’s health. Families, Systems, & Health, 36(3), 303.

Despite growing interest in the links between sociocontextual factors and children’s behavioral functioning, few studies have investigated how such factors, in combination, relate to health outcomes or vary across mental and physical well-being. We evaluated the direct and interactive associations of parental attachment and household chaos with preschool-age children’s mental and physical health. Method: Ninety-four parents completed questionnaires about their attachment styles, disorganization and confusion in the home, and their children’s health functioning. Results: Attachment avoidance and anxiety in parents predicted poorer mental health in children, particularly in highly chaotic homes. Moreover, parental attachment anxiety, but not avoidance, predicted poorer reported physical health in children and, in conjunction with chaotic homes, more hospitalizations. Discussion: The results help illuminate how multiple domains in children’s immediate environment jointly influence their physical and mental health and how these influences may vary across domains of functioning. Findings have implications for targeting interventions to have impact across facets of children’s health.

Klemfuss, J. Z., & Olaguez, A. P. (2018). Individual differences in children’s suggestibility: An updated review. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1-25.

The present review is intended as an overview of our current understanding of how children’s individual characteristics, in terms of demographic, cognitive, and psycho-social variables, may influence their susceptibility to suggestion. The goals are to revisit conceptual models of the mechanisms of suggestibility, to provide an updated practical guide for practitioners, and to make recommendations for future research. Results suggest that children with intellectual impairment and those with nascent language skills may be particularly vulnerable to suggestion. Further, memory for separate events, theory of mind, executive function, temperament, and social competence may not be related to suggestibility, whereas additional work is needed to clarify the potential contributions of knowledge, stress, mental health, parental elaborative style, and adverse experiences/maltreatment to children’s suggestibility.

Pena, M. M., Klemfuss, J. Z., Loftus, E. F., & Mindthoff, A. (2017). The effects of exposure to differing amounts of misinformation and source credibility perception on source monitoring and memory accuracy. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 4(4), 337.

Although it is well known that exposure to misinformation after an event can alter memory, less known are the effects of being presented with different amounts of misinformation. The present study examined (a) how exposure to different amounts of misinformation affects memory, (b) how sensitively individuals monitor the accuracy of a (mis)information source, (c) whether perceived credibility of the misinformation source mediates the relations between misinformation exposure and memory accuracy, (d) whether perceived source credibility is associated with improved source monitoring, and (e) how exposure to different amounts of misinformation affects the ability to accurately assess one’s own memory performance. Participants watched a mock crime video, were exposed to a misleading narrative about the video containing 20%, 50%, or 80% misinformation, completed a memory test, and rated the credibility of the misinformation source and their own memory performance. Receiving more misinformation decreased memory accuracy. Interestingly, receiving more misinformation also led subjects to become more skeptical of the credibility of the narrative, dampening the negative effect of misinformation on memory accuracy. In addition, individuals’ perceptions of the source’s credibility and source monitoring accuracy were negatively associated. Lastly, participants’ performance estimates and confidence were well calibrated to their actual performance, except when they were misled, supporting the idea that misinformed responses are more difficult to monitor. Participants also tended to overestimate their accuracy, particularly when they performed poorly.

Klemfuss, J. Z., & Wang, Q. (2017). Narrative skills, gender, culture, and children’s long-term memory accuracy of a staged event. Journal of Cognition and Development, 18(5), 577-594.

This study examined the extent to which school-aged children’s general narrative skills provide cognitive benefits for accurate remembering or enable good storytelling that undermines memory accuracy. European American and Chinese American 6-year-old boys and girls (N = 114) experienced a staged event in the laboratory and were asked to tell a story from a picture book that accessed their narrative skill. Children were interviewed about the staged event 6 months later to assess memory accuracy. Greater narrative skill when storytelling was associated with decreased free recall and recognition memory accuracy for the staged event. In free recall responses, this effect was driven by an increase in the likelihood that inaccurate details would be included in responses from children with better general narrative skills. For girls only, narrative skill predicted poorer recognition accuracy. Girls were also more language-proficient and provided more correct details in free recall than did boys. Chinese American children were more accurate than European American children when responding to recall prompts due to less frequent provision of incorrect details, particularly in girls. Findings are discussed in light of the roles of socialization in memory-reporting accuracy.

Klemfuss, J. Z., Cleveland, K. C., Quas, J. A., & Lyon, T. D. (2017). Relations between attorney temporal structure and children's response productivity in cases of alleged child sexual abuse. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 22(2), 228-241.

How children report about past experiences is of great importance within the legal system. Witness testimony is heavily relied upon, particularly in criminal trials. In some of the most heinous crimes involving child witnesses, such as those concerning allegations of sexual abuse, children’s testimony may be the only available evidence. A major focus of research at the interface of psychology and law, as such, has focused on identifying factors that influence children’s ability to report their past experiences (London & Ceci, 2012). This focus, though, has primarily concerned factors that affect children’s reports in forensic settings. Children must also provide evidence in court in response to attorneys’ questions, and far fewer studies have focused on how children provide such responses and how different attorney questioning behaviours affect those responses. This study extends this small but important body of research.We developed a comprehensive coding scheme to examine attorneys’ use of temporal structure in their questions and children’s response productivity on the stand. We then tested the relations between temporal structure in attorney questions and children’s response productivity both at the case level and at the individual question level, the latter to estimate both unidirectional and bidirectional effects.

Klemfuss, J. Z., Rush, E. B., & Quas, J. A. (2016). Parental reminiscing style and children’s suggestibility about an alleged transgression. Cognitive Development, 40, 33-45.

We examined the links between parental elaborativeness and children’s suggestibility about a salient event, testing the hypothesis that, in an accuracy-focused context, children of elaborative parents are more resistant to false suggestions than children of less elaborative parents. Our hypothesis was supported: in a sample of 68 4–7 year-old children and caregivers, parent elaborativeness, along with children’s working memory, additively predicted resistance to false suggestions from an unfamiliar interviewer about peripheral details of an alleged transgression. Children were forthcoming about the transgression when it actually occurred and highly resistant to suggestions that the transgression took place when it did not. Results have implications for understanding how parents socialize children to resist suggestions in accuracy-focused contexts through everyday reminiscing practices. Implications for theories of narrative and memory development, and for applied contexts such as the legal system, are discussed.

Mugno, A. P., Klemfuss, J. Z., & Lyon, T. D. (2016). Attorney questions predict jury‐eligible adult assessments of attorneys, child witnesses, and defendant guilt. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 34(1), 178-199.

Children are often the primary source of evidence in maltreatment cases, particularly cases of child sexual abuse, and may be asked to testify in court. Although best-practice protocols for interviewing children suggest that interviewers ask open-ended questions to elicit detailed responses from children, during in-court testimony, attorneys tend to rely on closed-ended questions that elicit simple (often “yes” or “no”) responses (e.g., Andrews, Lamb, & Lyon, 2015; Klemfuss, Quas, & Lyon, 2014). How then are jurors making decisions about children's credibility and ultimately the case outcome? The present study examined the effect of two attorney-specific factors (e.g., temporal structure and questioning phase) on mock jurors' perceptions of attorney performance, child witness credibility, storyline clarity, and defendant guilt. Participants were randomly assigned to read a trial excerpt from one of eight conditions and were then asked to evaluate the attorney, child witness, and the case. Selected excerpts were from criminal court case transcripts and contained either high attorney temporal structure (e.g., use of temporal markers) or low temporal structure (e.g., frequent topic switching), involved direct or cross-examination, and represented cases resulting in a conviction or acquittal. Child responses were kept consistent across all excerpts. Results showed that participants perceived the attorney's performance and child's credibility more favorably and thought the storyline was clearer when attorneys provided high rather than low temporal structure and when the excerpt contained direct rather than cross-examination. Participants who read a direct rather than cross-examination excerpt were also more likely to think the defendant was guilty. The study highlights the impact of attorney questioning style on mock jurors' perceptions.

Klemfuss, J. Z. (2015). Differential contributions of language skills to children's episodic recall. Journal of Cognition and Development, 16(4), 608-620.

Theorists have identified language as a critical contributor to children's episodic memory development, yet studies linking language and memory have had mixed results. The present study aimed to clarify the mechanisms linking language and memory and to explain the previous mixed results. Sixty-four preschool children's receptive and productive language abilities were assessed as were their accuracy and completeness when answering an open-ended prompt, direct questions, and misleading questions about scripted laboratory tasks. Results indicated strong relations between language skills and recall even when controlling for initial encoding of the to-be-remembered events and memory for a separate event. Importantly, these relations varied by the type of language skill assessed and by the type of recall. Productive language skills were primarily associated with accurate free recall, whereas receptive language skills best predicted children's resistance to misleading questions. Implications are discussed for theory about language and memory development, and for practical applications.

Klemfuss, J. Z., Quas, J. A., & Lyon, T. D. (2014). Attorneys' questions and children's productivity in child sexual abuse criminal trials. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28(5), 780-788.

We investigated the links between questions child witnesses are asked in court, children's answers, and case outcome. Samples of acquittals and convictions were matched on child age, victim–defendant relationship, and allegation count and severity. Transcripts were coded for question types, including a previously under-examined type of potentially suggestive question, declarative questions. Children's productivity was conceptualized in a novel way by separating new from repeated content and by adjusting the definition based on the linguistic demands of the questions. Attorneys frequently used declarative questions, and disconcertingly, attorneys who used these and other suggestive questions more frequently were more likely to win their case. Open-ended and closed-ended questions elicited similar levels of productivity from children, and both elicited more productivity compared with suggestive questions. Results highlight how conceptualization of questions and answers can influence conclusions, and demonstrate the important real-world implications of attorney questioning strategies on legal cases with child witnesses.

Klemfuss, J. Z., Milojevich, H. M., Yim, I. S., Rush, E. B., & Quas, J. A. (2013). Stress at encoding, context at retrieval, and children’s narrative content. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 116(3), 693-706.

Research concerning the relations between stress and children’s memory has been primarily correlational and focused on memory volume and accuracy. In the current study, we experimentally manipulated 7- and 8-year-olds’ and 12- to 14-year-olds’ experienced stress during a to-be-remembered event to examine the effects of stress on the content of their memory. We further manipulated the degree of interviewer support at retrieval to determine whether it moderated the effects of stress at encoding on memory. Children’s age, gender, stress at encoding, and interviewer support all influenced the type of information included in their narrative reports. Most notably, across ages, children who experienced a more stressful event but were questioned in a supportive manner provided the largest ratio of terms representing internal states such as those about cognitions and emotions. Results suggest that how children process past events may be influenced by both the nature of the event itself and the context within which it is recalled.

Quas, J. A., & Klemfuss, J. Z. (2013). Physiological stress reactivity and episodic memory in children. In P. J. Bauer & R. Fivush (Eds.), The Wiley Handbook on the Development of Children's Memory. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

This chapter provides a working definition of what we mean by stress and stress reactivity. It describes the functioning of three primary stress-sensitive biological systems that have important implications for children's memory, and reviews research concerning physiological arousal and memory in adults. The chapter provides a more extensive discussion of existing studies concerning these same topics in children. It highlights similarities and differences between the adult and developmental literatures. The chapter focuses on effects of physiological stress and arousal on children's episodic memory and describes stress-induced physiological responses, may directly relate to attention, encoding, consolidation, and retrieval of emotional information.

Klemfuss, J. Z., & Ceci, S. J. (2013). The law and science of children’s testimonial competency. In R. E. Holliday & T. A. Marche (Eds.), Child Forensic Psychology: Victim and Eyewitness Testimony. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

In recent years, it has become increasingly likely that a young child's testimony will be admitted in court. This is partially due to an increased awareness of the seriousness and prevalence of crimes against children, and partially due to growing confidence in young children's ability to provide testimony. Because of the increasing reliance on children's testimony, the legal system has a vested interest in determining which children should be believed. Part of determining the believability of a witness involves establishing their competence to provide testimony. In the most general sense, testimonial competency refers to a person's ability to provide useful testimony on the stand. A child's testimonial competency is considered separately from the accuracy and completeness of her testimony and from subjective opinions about the quality of her testimony, though theoretically all three concepts are related. To understand the current state of testimonial competency determinations, it is useful to consider both the law regarding testimonial competency and the recent empirical literature on the topic. This chapter will also cover evidence that points to discrepancies between competence determination, accuracy, and credibility.

Klemfuss, J. Z., & Ceci, S. J. (2012). Legal and psychological perspectives on children’s competence to testify in court. Developmental Review, 32(3), 268-286.

Young children are often called as witnesses to crimes they were victims of or observed. Because of their immaturity, child witnesses are sometimes more heavily scrutinized than adult witnesses before being allowed to testify in court, for example, through competency screening. This review discusses the psychology and US law relevant to decisions about children’s testimonial competency. Legally, a child is competent to provide in-court testimony if the presiding judge finds that the child can understand and answer basic interview questions, observe and recall pertinent events, understand the difference between truths and lies, and be affected by the moral obligation to tell the truth on the stand. We review the legal foundation and current practice of testimonial competence standards and discuss issues in the current system. We then review developmental psychology literature on children’s capabilities and individual differences in each domain of testimonial competency as well as the limited body of literature on competency exams. Finally, we make empirically-based recommendations and conclusions and highlight the need for further research and policy reforms related to children’s testimonial abilities.