Do visual cues help children learn ground rules?

Please note, the below information describes the comparison of two experimental groups within Study Two of The GRACI Project. Once all analyses are finalised, we look forward to sharing our findings from Study Two as a whole.

When children are interviewed by police or social workers as part of an investigation about possible maltreatment, they are taught ground rules to help guide their responses to questions. We have much to learn about how best to teach them to children and whether they are as helpful as we would like to think.

This research examined the use of visual cue cards to teach children ground rules. We developed some emoticon pictures (based on a small study with children that showed they preferred these kind of images to photographs) that represented each interview ground rule.

Here’s what we did.

89 children aged 5-12 years participated in a staged event at their school and were then interviewed about it. During the interview, we asked a series of questions that children ought to have answered with a ground rule response (e.g., because they did not know the information, because the question was too hard to understand, or because the question had incorrect information in it).  Some children learned the rules with the picture cue cards and some learned them without the cards.  

Here’s what we found.

We expected that children in the cue cards group would more often use a ground rule response to the test questions, because they had learned them better and because the cue cards were in front of them to remind them of the rules during the interview.

What we saw, however, was that the use of cue cards had no impact on children’s correct use of ground rules during training or the interview. Both groups of children frequently did not use a ground rule response to the test questions and instead attempted to answer them. The way in which children are currently taught about ground rules does not seem to support them to use them when needed, and adding picture cue cards does not help. 

Learn more.

This research was undertaken by Tui Davies, alongside the Applied Developmental Psychology Lab team, as part of her Master’s in Psychology. If you’re interested to read a more in-depth description and analysis of this study, you can find Tui’s Master’s thesis here.

Our thanks for your support.

We would like to thank everyone who was involved in this research, especially the schools, parents, caregivers and children who took part. We look forward to sharing more about what we’ve found in the coming months.

Ngā Mihi,

The Applied Developmental Psychology Lab Team

Applied Developmental Psychology Lab
School of Psychology
Victoria University of Wellington