The Willingness of Children to Lie and the Assessment of Credibility in an Ecologically Relevant Laboratory Setting

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A series of 4 experiments were conducted to (a) determine the willingness of children to lie in a realistic setting, (b) compare judgments of credibility from both lay evaluations and Criterion-Based Content Analysis (CBCA), and (c) examine the effects of expert testimony regarding Statement Validity Assessment on mock jurors who were asked to make evaluations of the children's statements. In Experiment 1, 81% of children who witnessed a research assistant steal a textbook made accusations against the thief (truthful), 69% of children who did not witness the theft accused the research assistant of the theft following prompting by significant others, and 56% of the children who witnessed a significant other steal the textbook incorrectly accused the research assistant following a request from their significant other. Using the statements obtained from the children in Experiment 1, Experiments 2 and 3 found that classification accuracy of lay evaluators was significantly poorer than expert application of CBCA, which resulted in 89% classification accuracy. Finally, brief exposure to CBCA expert testimony appeared to have no benefits on mock jurors' assessments of credibility of the children's statements in Experiment 4. Implications for North American legal systems are discussed.