Children’s Suggestibility for an Instance of a Repeated Event

There has been a great deal of research on the malleability of memory in general and, in particular, the extent to which children will report that details they were only told about really had happened during a previous event. Before the late 1990s, virtually all such research was based on children’s reports of a unique event. There had been very little direct research on the effect of suggestions on children's reports of an instance of a repeated event. This is striking because about half of the children who are complainants in criminal court allege repeated abuse. In several studies my colleagues and I found that children are at the same time very suggestible and very resistant to suggestions when the target event is an instance of a repeated event. Children’s recognition memory (Connolly & Lindsay, 2001) and cued recall memory (Price & Connolly, 2004, 2006) were very susceptible to suggestions that related to details that changed across instances of a repeated event (variable details) and very resistant to suggestions about details that remained the same across events (fixed details). Heightened suggestibility was especially pronounced when experienced details were categorically linked, and this was particularly strong among older children compared to younger children (Connolly & Price, 2006). We argued that memory for repeated emotionally arousing and benign events are susceptible to the same contaminating influences (Price & Connolly, 2008) and provided empirical support for this assertion. Suggestibility effects were similar in children who experienced the target event as emotionally arousing and those who did not (Price & Connolly, 2007). Evidence of heightened suggestibility among repeat-event children relative to single event children was observable even after a one-year delay (Price & Connolly, 2013).

Connolly, D. A., & Lindsay, D. S. (2001). The influence of suggestions on children's reports of a unique experience versus an instance of a repeated experience. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 15, 205 – 223.

Price, H. L., & Connolly, D. A. (2004). Event frequency and children’s suggestibility: A study of cued recall responses. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 809-821.

Price, H. L, Connolly, D. A., & Gordon, H, M. (2006) Children’s recall of an instance of a repeated event: Does spacing of instances matter? Memory, 14, 977-989.

Connolly, D. A. & Price, H. L. (2006). Children’s suggestibility for an instance of a repeated event versus a unique event: The effect of degree of association between variable options. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 93, 207-233.

Price, H. L., & Connolly, D. A. (2007). Anxious and non-anxious children’s recall of a repeated or unique event. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 98, 94-112.

Price, H. L., & Connolly, D. A. (2008). The influence of emotional arousal and repetition of experience on children’s recall: A preliminary discussion of their interactive importance. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 31, 337-346.

Price, H. L. & Connolly, D. A. (2013). Suggestibility effects persist after one year in children who experienced a single or repeated event. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 3, 89-94.