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41 Law & Hum. Behav. 1 (2017)

handle is hein.journals/lwhmbv41 and id is 1 raw text is: Law and Human Behavior
2017. Vol. 41. No. 1. 1-12

© 2016 American Psychological Association
0147-7307/17/$12.00  http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/lhb0000208

The Influence of Disclosure History and Body Diagrams on Children's
Reports of Inappropriate Touching: Evidence From a New
Analog Paradigm

Jason J. Dickinson
Montclair State University

Debra Ann Poole
Central Michigan University

We tested a new paradigm for child eyewitness research that incorporates children's disclosure histories
into analog study designs. Mr. Science Germ Detective creates meaningful touching experiences and
varied patterns of preinterview disclosures by convincing children that touching in the laboratory is
potentially contaminating (germy). Children (N = 287, 4 to 8 years) heard that Mr. Science could no
longer touch children's skin and then participated in an educational program involving 2 attempted
touches. A week later, their disclosure histories were determined by a phone call that occurred a day
before a forensic-style interview in the laboratory. This interview was delivered in 1 of 2 conditions: with
early open-ended and more focused prompts delivered without a diagram (conventional-first condition)
or with an initial diagram-assisted phase (diagram-first condition). Results confirmed that the new
paradigm produces salient touches and performance patterns across open-ended and more focused
questions that mirror well-known findings in eyewitness studies. A diagram made it easier for research
assistants to elicit detailed reports of touching, but only among children 5 years and older who had not
previously disclosed. Accuracy rates were comparable across interview conditions for early substantive
phases but declined among older children when interviewers used diagrams to elicit additional reports
late in interviews. These findings demonstrate that disclosure history is an important variable to include
in analog study designs and confirm that Germ Detective is a promising paradigm for initial tests of new
interviewing strategies.
Keywords: analog research, children, eyewitness research, body diagrams

The mainstay of child eyewitness research is the analog study,
a type of study in which researchers ask children about docu-
mented (often staged) events. Analog studies have identified nu-
merous interviewing practices that improve children's testimony,
including a supportive (but not suggestive) demeanor, verbal en-
couragement to continue talking, narrative practice, ground rules
instruction, and the use of open-ended prompts (for reviews, see
Lamb, La Rooy, Malloy, & Katz, 2011; Poole, Brubacher, &
Dickinson, 2015). The international effort to incorporate findings
from these studies into protocols for investigating abuse allega-
tions represents a broader social movement for evidence-based
practice in medicine, mental health, education, and business.
Yet despite the widespread influence of analog research, critics
have long argued that results from these studies have little rele-
vance for the type of case that motivated this research: sexual
This article was published Online First July 21, 2016.
Jason J. Dickinson, Robert D. McCormick Center For Child Advocacy
and Policy, Montclair State University; Debra Ann Poole, Department of
Psychology, Central Michigan University.
This research was supported by Grants SES-1121890 (Jason J. Dickin-
son) and SES-1121873 (Debra Ann Poole) from the National Science
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jason J.
Dickinson, 301 Dickson Hall, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
07043. E-mail: dickinsonj@mail.montclair.edu

abuse investigations. The majority of complaints center around
two issues. First, analog paradigms mimic the dynamics of day
care cases in which investigators interviewed numerous children
who had not previously reported abuse (Wood, Nathan, Nezwor-
ski, & Uhl, 2009). In contrast, sexual abuse investigations include
a sizable percentage of children who have already disclosed
(Lamb, Hershkowitz, Orbach, & Esplin, 2008), and this group may
be less suggestible in the face of questions about unfounded
allegations. If this is true, then interviewing techniques that prompt
an alarming number of false reports in laboratory studies may not
have similar effects in the field, where many children are not
reporting events for the first time. The second criticism is the most
frequently vented: because the innocuous touches in analog studies
are not emotionally salient or memorable, results from these stud-
ies cannot inform us about the pros and cons of the interview
methods tested (Lyon, 2012; Maples, 2012).
To ameliorate these concerns, an analog paradigm would
need to produce a variety of disclosure histories for inappro-
priate, memorable touching. Here we report preliminary find-
ings from a candidate paradigm that accomplishes these goals:
Mr. Science Germ Detective (hereafter just Germ Detective).
After explaining the conceptual bases for the paradigm, we
describe a study that documented children's reactions to the
paradigm, explored whether performance differences across
conventional and diagram-assisted questioning were compara-
ble for children who had and had not previously disclosed, and

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