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Young Children can be Reliable Witnesses Like Adults, Study Says

Update Date: Nov 06, 2015 10:35 AM EST

Young age does not affect whether or not someone can be a reliable witness.

In a new study, researchers set out to examine whether or not children can be reliable witnesses. Forensic psychologist, Henry Otgaar, who carried out the research at Maastricht University in The Netherlands, conducted several experiments involving about 70 to 80 participants each. He focused on children between the ages of four and 12 and adults.

The experiments tested the participants' ability to recall memory. For example, some participants watched a clip of a bank robbery and were asked about the things they saw in the clip. The participants then acted as the eyewitness. The researchers found that the responses from children were no less reliable than the responses they got from the adults.

The researchers did find that at times, older children and adults clung onto false memories longer than the younger kids did. This meant that older children and adults were more likely to stick with what they thought they saw even if it was not real.

For younger children, the researchers found that although false memories appeared to be more apparent, they were also more flexible. Younger children did not cling to their false memories as much.

Regardless of false memories, the researchers concluded that young children can be as reliable as adults as witnesses and that age should not determine whether or not a child could be a witness.

"Our results are in line with the increasing bulk of research results from which it is apparent that younger children sometimes perform better than older children," Otgaar said reported by Medical Xpress. "They distinguish strange sounds better and are more inventive in coming up with alternative ways of using tools than older people. This is probably because the acquisition of new knowledge leads to a decreased flexibility in the adoption of new ideas."

The report was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

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