81. Detecting children’s true and false denials of wrongdoing: Effects of question type and base rate knowledge.Behavioral Sciences & The Law (2020)
One common and unfortunately overlooked obstacle to the detection of sexual abuse is non-disclosure by children. Non-disclosure may be expressed via concealment in response to recall questions or via active denials in response to recognition (e.g., yes/no) questions. In two studies, we evaluated whether adults’ ability to discern true and false denials of wrongdoing by children varied as a function of the types of questions the children were asked. Results suggest that adults are not good at detecting deceptive denials of wrongdoing by children, even when they view children narrate their experiences in response to recall questions rather than provide one word answers to recognition questions. In Study 1, adults exhibited a consistent “truth bias,” leading them toward believing children, regardless of whether the children’s denials were true or false. In Study 2, adults were given base-rate information about the occurrence of true and false denials (50% of each). The information eliminated the adults’ truth bias but did not improve their overall detection accuracy, which still hovered near chance. Adults did, however, perceive children’s denials as slightly more credible when they emerged in response to recall rather than recognition questions, especially when children were honestly denying wrongdoing. Results suggest the need for caution when evaluating adults’ judgments of children’s veracity when the children fail to disclose abuse.
- false denials,
- child sexual abuse,
- child witness,
- base rate knowledge,
- child abuse
Publication DateFall October 23, 2020
Citation InformationDomagalski, K., Gongola, J., Lyon, T.D., Clark, S.E., & Quas, J.A. (2020). Detecting children’s true and false denials of wrongdoing: Effects of question type and base rate knowledge. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 38, 612-629.