The Productivity of Wh- Prompts When Children Testify

10 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2015 Last revised: 12 Jan 2017

See all articles by Samantha Andrews

Samantha Andrews

University of Cambridge

Elizabeth Ahern

University of Cambridge

Stacia Stolzenberg

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: January 11, 2017

Abstract

Wh- prompts (what, how, why, who, when, where) vary widely in their specificity and accuracy, but differences among them have largely been ignored in research examining the productivity of different question-types in child testimony. We examined 120 6- to 12-year-olds’ criminal court testimony in child sexual abuse cases to compare the productivity of various wh- prompts. We distinguished among what/how prompts, most notably: what/how-happen prompts focusing generally on events, what/how-dynamic prompts focusing on actions or unfolding processes/events, what/how-causality prompts focusing on causes and reasons, and what/how-static prompts focusing on non-action contextual information regarding location, objects, and time. Consistent with predictions, what/how-happen prompts were the most productive, and both what/how-dynamic prompts and wh- prompts about causality were more productive than other wh- prompts. Prosecutors asked proportionally more what/how-dynamic prompts and fewer what/how-static prompts than defense attorneys. Future research and interviewer training may benefit from finer discrimination among wh- prompts.

Keywords: Wh- prompts, directive questions, child sexual abuse, defense cross-examination, prosecution direct-examination

Suggested Citation

Andrews, Samantha and Ahern, Elizabeth and Stolzenberg, Stacia and Lyon, Thomas D., The Productivity of Wh- Prompts When Children Testify (January 11, 2017). 30 Applied Cognitive Psychology 341-349 (2016); USC CLASS Research Paper No. 15-34; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 15-36. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2686714

Samantha Andrews (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Elizabeth Ahern

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Stacia Stolzenberg

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice ( email )

411 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ Arizona 85004
United States
6024960495 (Phone)

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0142 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

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