Age-related Differences in the Free-recall Accounts of Child, Adolescent, and Adult Witnesses


Correspondence to: Fiona Jack, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand.



Many researchers have examined the factors that affect children's ability to provide eyewitness evidence, leading to significant reform in policy and practice. In stark contrast, there has been virtually no eyewitness research conducted with adolescents, even though adolescents are still undergoing developmental changes that are likely to affect eyewitness performance. We compared the eyewitness performance of children, adolescents, and adults by showing them a brief film clip depicting a simulated crime and using cognitive interview instructions to elicit free-recall accounts. Adolescents provided more information than children, but less information than adults. Accuracy did not differ with age. These data suggest that, like children, adolescents could benefit from specialised interview techniques that help them provide more complete accounts. Across all three age groups, individual differences in cognitive functioning contributed to variation in eyewitness performance, and eliciting a second free-recall account increased the amount of information reported. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.