Research

Memory Development

We are interested in memory development and the impact of different information processing and behavioural factors on what children can recall.


Juror Beliefs and Understanding Children’s Testimony

How do jurors understand abuse disclosure by children? How does the way children response to questions by investigators and lawyers impact jurors’ evaluations of child credibility and reliability? How do juror beliefs of children’s capabilities at different ages influence their views of children’s testimony? How do children use interviewing aids to communicate with interviewers and answer questions?

These are just some of the questions considered in our research lab under our research investigating juror beliefs and understanding of different aspects of children’s testimony. Aspects such as, how children disclose abuse, respond to questions, or use different types of interview aids (e.g. non-anatomical body position dolls) to communicate, as well as more general issues relating to memory and memory development and its influence on the reliability of testimony. By understanding these issues better, we can support the courts to ensure fairness in proceedings involving children. Findings from our studies will also contribute to evidence-based guidance on the use of interviewing aids to promote communication during investigations.


Children’s Memory for Changing Events

In this study, we focus on how children between 6 to 14-years remember their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Deirdre Brown is working in collaboration with researchers from universities in Canada (Dr Heather Price), Australia (Dr Sonja Brubacher) and the UK (Dr Charlie Lewis and Dr Michael Lamb) to compare children’s experiences and memory across countries who each had different experiences and responses to the pandemic.

This research will help us understand how children remember and experience events that change over time. Children are often asked to talk about their real-life experiences—in class, at home, at the doctor, or in legal settings. These situations can sometimes be difficult for children, and research like this gives us information about what to expect from children and how we can best support them to talk about their experiences.


The GRACIA ProjectThe GRACIA Project Logo v2

Ground Rules Application and Comprehension in Adults.

Following up previous research examining children’s changing understanding and use of “ground rules” in interview settings across childhood. Ground rules are taught during interviews to help children signal when they don’t understand a question, know the answer, or when an interviewer makes a mistake. Results from our previous research show, even at 12 years, children show poor competency with the rules. This study looks to examine competency in adults. Do adults do better?


The GRACI projectthe graci project logo

Ground Rules and Children’s Interviews.

Supported by a Marsden Fund grant, the GRACI project is undertaking a series of studies with children aged 3-12 years in the Greater Wellington Region. These studies investigate children’s understanding and use of “ground rules”, such as saying “I don’t know” in an interview setting when they do not know the answer. We explore how children’s understanding of ground rules changes with age, and test ways of teaching the rules that are informed by cognitive research.

For a summary of our results from our first study please click here.


The MARCIE projectThe MARCIE Project

Memory: Age-Related Changes in Errors.

The MARCIE project is a series of studies, supported by a Marsden Fund grant, examining the finding that false memories can be more common in older children and adults than they are in younger children. Our research is investigating whether developmental patterns of false memories demonstrated in lab based tasks (e.g., recall of word lists or pictures) occur in the same way when children recall personally experienced events.

Click here for a summary of result for this project.


Forensic Interviews with Children

Our research examines safe techniques for conducting forensic interviews with children when they have been witness to, or victims of, an alleged crime. We are investigating such issues as whether using aids such as body diagrams, photos, drawings, sketch plans, or mental context reinstatement in an interview may help to facilitate children’s recall. We are also interested in the abilities of different groups of children (e.g., those with developmental delays or disorders) to remember and talk about what they know. Additionally, we are conducting research that aims to enhance the effectiveness of evidence-based interviewer strategies and to develop processes that can help interviewers engage in self-supervision and evaluation.