Adults' Perceptions of Children's Referentially Ambiguous Responses
35 Psychology, Crime, & Law 729-738 (2019)
20 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2018 Last revised: 10 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 8, 2019
The present study examined adults’ (N = 295) interpretations of child witnesses’ referentially ambiguous “yes” and “no” responses to “Do You Know/Remember (DYK/R) if/whether” questions (e.g., “Do you know if it was blue?”). Participants were presented with transcripts from child sexual abuse cases modified based on question format (DYK/R vs. Direct) and child response type (Yes, No, I don’t know) in a between subjects design. We assessed whether adults recognized that children’s ambiguous responses were unclear, and if not, how they were interpreting children’s responses compared to the control (Direct) conditions. More specifically, we assessed whether adults interpreted children’s responses as answering the explicit (e.g., “No, I don’t remember”) or implicit (e.g., “No, it wasn’t blue”) question. Participants virtually never recognized ambiguous responses as unclear, and their interpretations were influenced by the attorney's question and child’s response type. In sum, these results suggest that DYK/R questions often lead to misinterpretation, resulting in miscommunication.
Keywords: jury, child witness, response interpretation, referential ambiguity, testimony
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation