The Dolls Project – Investigating Juror’s Beliefs

Interviewers may sometimes use non-anatomically detailed (non-AD) dolls during interviews with children, to help them talk about important aspects of their experiences. For example, they may ask children to use dolls to show their body position and that of an alleged offender.

We wanted to know what kinds of beliefs and expectations potential juror members have of how children would use dolls, and whether this would increase or diminish the credibility of the information they reported.

Here’s what we did.

185 participants completed an online questionnaire about whether and how dolls might be useful in investigative interviews with children. Participants then watched a video of a child being interviewed with or without a non-AD doll and rated the child’s testimony.

Here’s what we found.

The results indicated that people thought non-AD dolls would be helpful in interviews with children, but also identified some risks. However, they did not express strong beliefs about how non-AD dolls would influence the evidence that children provided. When they viewed a video of a child describing a past event, their beliefs about whether non-AD dolls would be helpful were more strongly linked to how they evaluated the child’s testimony, than whether or not a non-AD doll was used during the interview. 

Because jurors may have expectations about how children use non-AD dolls to talk about their experiences that do not reflect what we have learned from studies about whether they are safe to use in investigative interviews, and these expectations may bias their evaluation of a child’s testimony, we need to learn more about the ways in which dolls are used in interviews with children and the impact that it has on the safety of their evidence.

Learn more.

This research was undertaken by Christiana Hartley, 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 Christiana’s Master’s thesis here.

Our thanks for your support.

We would like to thank everyone who was involved in making this research possible, especially the adults who responded to our surveys.

Ngā Mihi,

The Applied Developmental Psychology Lab Team

Applied Developmental Psychology Lab
School of Psychology
Victoria University of Wellington