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‘You didn't take Lucy's skirt off’: The effect of misleading information on omissions and commissions in children's memory reports

Authors


Correspondence should be addressed to Henry Otgaar, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands (e-mail: henry.otgaar@maastrichtuniversity.nl).

Abstract

Purpose. The current study explored how misleading information affects children's omissions and commissions over time.

Method. Fifty-nine younger (Mage = 4.16) and fifty-nine older (Mage = 9.44) children were instructed to remove three pieces of clothing from a puppet. Half of them were provided with false evidence that they had removed only two items, while the other half were provided with false evidence that they had removed a fourth piece of clothing. In three neutral interviews separated by 1-week intervals, children had to report which pieces of clothing they had removed.

Results. Overall, omission and commission errors significantly decreased over time, although this pattern was more pronounced for omission errors. Younger and older children were equally likely to make omission errors, whereas commission errors were more typical for younger than for older children. Also, we found that commission errors more readily occur than omission errors.

Conclusion. Even when children's memory reports pertain to an event in which they actively participated, misleading information may elicit omission and commission errors, with especially the latter category being very persistent over time.

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