Adult Gestures Prompt Kid's Wrong Answers

CHICAGO, May 4 (UPI) — A University of Chicago study suggests people who interview children can elicit incorrect answers by using gestures a child misunderstands.

The study, led by Professor Susan Goldin-Meadow, showed people who interview children during criminal investigations and other inquiries must pay attention to their own gestures, particularly if the child is inarticulate. They said interviewers might provide clues through their own gestures that encourage a youngster to “remember” things the child did not witness.

Goldin-Meadow — a psychologist and an expert on gestures — and her former student, Sara Broaders, the lead author of the study, say such interviewers must also pay attention to the hand gestures the children make because they can reveal important information lawyers and police investigators might miss by not paying attention to hand movements.

“While others have suggested interviews should be videotaped, we suggest the videotaping needs to be arranged so that both interviewer and witness are visible on camera,” Goldin-Meadow said. “Ours is the first study to show that misleading gesture can have long-term effects on the veracity of children’s reports.”

The research appears in the journal Psychological Science.

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