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Just the facts or just for fun? Children's understanding of and sensitivity to retelling contexts



Adults appear to recognize that different memory sharing contexts, such as telling a story to a friend at a party versus providing eyewitness testimony, vary in their accuracy demands and adjust their retellings accordingly. There is less evidence that children are able to make the same distinctions. In the present two-part experiment, we first tested 6–8-year-old children's beliefs about the accuracy requirements of different memory sharing contexts that varied on the listener's implicit expectation about accuracy. Children were then read a short story and were given retelling instructions that emphasized accuracy or entertainment. Results from the first task indicated that children evidence a significant truth bias, suggesting that they believe accurate retellings are preferred regardless of context. Despite this, children did appear to adjust their retellings as a function of context, with retellings in the high accuracy condition including more verbatim and less error statements. Finally, children who evidenced a stronger truth bias were less likely to employ the language of storytelling by producing lower-quality narratives. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.