An experimental study of the effectiveness of different techniques of questioning child witnesses


Institute of Judicial Administration, Faculty of Law. The University of Birmingham, PO Box 363, Birmingham B15 2TT.


Two experiments were conducted to investigate the effects upon accuracy of recall of different techniques of obtaining evidence from 10- and 11-year-old children about a previously witnessed incident.

The first experiment studied three techniques: (a) free report, (b) use of general questions, and (c) use of specific questions. It was expected that the free report method would produce the most accurate but least complete initial recall, but that this lack of completeness might have a detrimental effect upon the accuracy of later recall. The free report technique did produce highly accurate, although rather incomplete recall, but initial use of this technique did not have any detrimental effect upon later, more structured recall.

The second experiment investigated the sole use of the free report technique over a 2-month period. It was expected that a high level of accuracy would be achieved at all recall sessions. The effect upon accuracy of recall of a delay of 2 weeks or 2 months prior to the first experimental recall session was also investigated in this experiment. A high level of accuracy was obtained at all recall sessions. However, a delay before the first recall session had an adverse effect upon the completeness of recall.