Children's memory distortions following social contact with a co-witness: Disentangling social and cognitive mechanisms

Alexandra Bright-Paul, Christopher Jarrold, Daniel B. Wright, Stephanie Guillaume

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examined whether recalling an event with a co-witness influences children's recall. Individual 3-5-year-olds (n = 48) watched a film with a co-witness. Unbeknown to participants, the co-witness was watching an alternative version of the film. Afterwards both the co-witness and the participant answered questions about the film together (public recall), and the degree to which children conformed to the co-witness's alternative version of events was measured. Subsequently participants were questioned again individually (private recall). Children also completed false belief and inhibitory control tasks. By separating errors made in public and private, the results indicated that both social conformity (32% of errors) and memory distortion (68% of errors) played a role in co-witness influence. Inhibitory control predicted the likelihood of retracting errors in private, but only for children who failed (r = .66) rather than passed false belief tasks (r = -.10). The results suggest that children with a theory of mind conform in the company of the co-witness to avoid social embarrassment, while those a poor theory of mind conform on the basis of an inability to inhibit the co-witness's response. The findings contribute to our understanding of the motivations responsible for co-witness conformity across early childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-595
Number of pages16
JournalMemory
Volume20
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Structured keywords

  • Memory

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