Bull, R., University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Substantial improvements have taken place in several countries regarding obtaining verbal information from child witnesses/victims about what they have experienced. However, few similar developments have yet taken place regarding their attempts visually to identify perpetrators. This is a particular cause for concern because laboratory based studies have found that children, more so that adults, will pick out a face from a photo- spread/array when the perpetrator's face is absent. This inability to 'reject' a target absent array has been put down to a combination of cognitive and social factors. This presentation describes a series of three studies designed around such factors. Study one sought to determine the descriptors (i.e. words) children use to describe faces. A list of such descriptors was used in study two to prompt half of the children to provide a fuller description of a face than they provided spontaneously (which is what the other children were asked to do). While this prompting was successful in assisting children to provide more of the kinds of descriptors thought to assist face processing, it did not have an overall effect on improving their performance on target absent arrays. However, for the younger children the more extra descriptors they provided in the prompted condition the more they correctly rejected the older adult target absent array. Study three examined the effects of 'enhanced' instructions that emphasized the appropriateness of responding "not there" or "don't know" as well as of prompting. It, like study two, found no simple positive effect of prompting. It also found that the enhanced instructions were not generally effective.