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Children's event reports: Factors affecting responses to repeated questions in vignette scenarios and event recall interviews


Pauline Howie, School of Psychology A18, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia (e-mail:


When adults repeat questions, children often give inconsistent answers. This study aimed to test the claim that these inconsistencies occur because children infer that their first answer was unsatisfactory, and that the adult expects them to change their answer. Children aged 4, 6, and 8 years (N= 134) were asked about vignettes in which an adult repeated a question, with manipulation of the adult's overt dissatisfaction (high vs. low pressure) and knowledge about the information sought. On a separate occasion, the children were given an unrelated event recall interview containing repeated questions. All age groups showed sensitivity to adult dissatisfaction, interpreting question repetition as an implicit request for answer change more frequently in the high than in the low-pressure vignettes. Overall, however, these ‘change-expected’ interpretations were least frequent in the younger children, who were the most prone to shifting. Also there was no evidence that these interpretations were associated with more frequent shifting in the recall interview. The results do not provide clear support for a simple conversational inference account of shifting, especially in younger children.