Setting the Stage for Psychological Research on the Child Eyewitness

  • John W. Turtle
  • Gary L. Wells


Although it is true that psychologists have shown an interest in the eyewitnessing capabilities of children throughout this century (e.g., Binet, 1900, 1911; Dauber, 1912; Marbe, 1913; Mehl, 1912; Stern, 1910, 1939), we argue that psychological research on the child eyewitness is nascent. With the exception of Binet’s studies on suggestibility, which were somewhat narrow and restricted in focus, research on the child eyewitness did not receive systematic treatment until quite recently. The birth of systematic approaches to the study of child eyewitnesses in the 1980s probably is due to two primary factors: the rapid development of a psychological literature on eyewitness testimony in general (marked by books by Clifford & Bull, 1978; Loftus, 1979; Wells & Loftus, 1984; Yarmey, 1979) and the contemporary salience of children as victims of crime. The development of an eyewitness testimony literature within psychology has facilitated the study of child eyewitnesses by enhancing awareness of the fallibility of eyewitnesses, refining paradigms for experimentally investigating eyewitness variables, and opening the door to applying the research results (e.g., via expert testimony). The salience of the child eyewitness as a special concern has been motivated in part by the dramatic increase in awareness that children are vulnerable and frequent victims of crime—especially in the area of sexual assault. In light of the pressing need to further our understanding of children’s testimony, this chapter outlines a number of psycholegal variables that require further investigation so that more information can be made available to those responsible for constructing a policy to handle the child-witness’ testimony.


Expert Testimony Experimental Child Psychology Misleading Information Eyewitness Testimony Misinformation Effect 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • John W. Turtle
  • Gary L. Wells

There are no affiliations available

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