Publications

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    ABSTRACT: Prior research suggests that infelicitous choice of questions can significantly underestimate children’s actual abilities, independently of suggestiveness. One possibly difficult question type is indirect speech acts such as “Do you know…” questions (DYK, e.g., “Do you know where it happened?”). These questions directly ask if respondents know, while indirectly asking what respondents know. If respondents answer “yes,” but fail to elaborate, they are either ignoring or failing to recognize the indirect question (known as pragmatic failure). Two studies examined the effect of indirect speech acts on maltreated and non-maltreated 2- to 7-year-olds’ post-event interview responses. Children were read a story and later interviewed using DYK and Wh- questions. Additionally, children completed a series of executive functioning tasks. Both studies revealed that using DYK questions increases the chances of pragmatic failure, particularly for younger children and those with lower inhibitory control skills.
    Behavioral Sciences & the Law 10/2014; · 0.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The classic moral stories have been used extensively to teach children about the consequences of lying and the virtue of honesty. Despite their widespread use, there is no evidence whether these stories actually promote honesty in children. This study compared the effectiveness of four classic moral stories in promoting honesty in 3- to 7-year-olds. Surprisingly, the stories of "Pinocchio" and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" failed to reduce lying in children. In contrast, the apocryphal story of "George Washington and the Cherry Tree" significantly increased truth telling. Further results suggest that the reason for the difference in honesty-promoting effectiveness between the "George Washington" story and the other stories was that the former emphasizes the positive consequences of honesty, whereas the latter focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty. When the "George Washington" story was altered to focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty, it too failed to promote honesty in children.
    Psychological science. 06/2014;
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    Angela D Evans, Kang Lee
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    ABSTRACT: The present investigation examined whether school-aged children and adolescents’ own deceptive behavior of cheating and lying influenced their honesty judgments of their same-aged peers. Eighty 8- to 17-year-olds who had previously participated in a study examining cheating and lie-telling behaviors were invited to make honesty judgments of their peers’ denials of having peeked at the answers to a test.While participants’ accuracy rates for making honesty judgments were at chance levels, judgment biases were found based on participants own past cheating and lie-telling behaviors. Specifically, those who cheated and lied were biased towards believing that their peers would behave in the same manner. In contrast, participants who had not cheated were biased towards judging their peers as honest. These findings suggest that by 8 years of age there is a relation between one’s own deceptive behaviors and judgments of other’s honesty.
    International Journal of Behavioral Development 02/2014; · 1.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Elementary school children's cheating behavior and its cognitive correlates were investigated using a guessing game. Children (n=95) between 8 and 12years of age were asked to guess which side of the screen a coin would appear on and received rewards based on their self-reported accuracy. Children's cheating behavior was measured by examining whether children failed to adhere to the game rules by falsely reporting their accuracy. Children's theory-of-mind understanding and executive functioning skills were also assessed. The majority of children cheated during the guessing game, and cheating behavior decreased with age. Children with better working memory and inhibitory control were less likely to cheat. However, among the cheaters, those with greater cognitive flexibility use more tactics while cheating. Results revealed the unique role that executive functioning plays in children's cheating behavior: Like a double-edged sword, executive functioning can inhibit children's cheating behavior, on the one hand, while it can promote the sophistication of children's cheating tactics, on the other.
    Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 01/2014; 121C:85-95. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: As children can be victims or witnesses to crimes and may be required to testify about their experiences in court, the ability to differentiate between children's true and fabricated accounts of victimization is an important issue. This study used automated linguistic analysis software to detect linguistic patterns in order to differentiate between children's true and false stressful bullying reports and reports of non-stressful events. Results revealed that children displayed different linguistic patterns when reporting true and false stressful and non-stressful stories, with non-stressful stories being more accurately discriminated based on linguistic patterns. Results suggest that it is difficult to discriminate accurately and consistently between children's true and false stories of victimization.
    Psychiatry Psychology and Law 11/2013; 20(6):867-881. · 0.35 Impact Factor
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    Thomas D Lyon, Angela D Evans
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    ABSTRACT: Two studies, with 102 nonmaltreated 3- to 6-year-old children and 96 maltreated 4- to 7-year-old children, examined children's understanding of the relative strengths of "I promise," "I will," "I might," and "I won't," to determine the most age-appropriate means of eliciting a promise to tell the truth from child witnesses. Children played a game in which they chose which of 2 boxes would contain a toy after hearing story characters make conflicting statements about their intent to place a toy in each box (e.g., one character said "I will put a toy in my box" and the other character said "I might put a toy in my box"). Children understood "will" at a younger age than "promise." Nonmaltreated children understood that "will" is stronger than "might" by 3 years of age and that "promise" is stronger than "might" by 4 years of age. The youngest nonmaltreated children preferred "will" to "promise," whereas the oldest nonmaltreated children preferred "promise" to "will." Maltreated children exhibited a similar pattern of performance, but with delayed understanding that could be attributed to delays in vocabulary. The results support a modified oath for children: "Do you promise that you will tell the truth?" (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
    Law and Human Behavior 10/2013; 38:162-170. · 2.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The present study aimed to test the hypothesis that an interfering task in the concealed information test will help the detection of concealed memory based on participants' behavioral performance (e.g. reaction time, error rate). Here, after participants enacted a mock crime, they were introduced to a concealed information test either with or without an interfering dot-probe task. Results showed that the RT-based pure-CIT (without interference) can detect concealed memory well above chance (AUC=.88). The detection efficiency was higher (AUC=.94) in the interference-CIT based on participants' performance of the interfering task. The findings suggested that the elevation of cognitive workload could possibly increase the detection efficiency of concealed memory based on behavioral measures.
    Acta psychologica 01/2013; 142(2):278-285. · 2.19 Impact Factor
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    Angela D Evans, Kang Lee
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    ABSTRACT: Lying is a pervasive human behavior. Evidence to date suggests that from the age of 42 months onward, children become increasingly capable of telling lies in various social situations. However, there is limited experimental evidence regarding whether very young children will tell lies spontaneously. The present study investigated the emergence of lying in very young children. Sixty-five 2- to 3-year-olds were asked not to peek at a toy when the experimenter was not looking. The majority of children (80%) transgressed and peeked at the toy. When asked whether they had peeked at the toy, most 2-year-old peekers were honest and confessed to their peeking, but with increased age, more peekers denied peeking and thus lied. However, when asked follow-up questions that assessed their ability to maintain their initial lies, most children failed to conceal their lie by pretending to be ignorant of the toy's identity. Additionally, after controlling for age, children's executive functioning skills significantly predicted young children's tendency to lie. These findings suggest that children begin to tell lies at a very young age. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
    Developmental Psychology 01/2013; · 3.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: As children are often called upon to provide testimony in court proceedings, determining the veracity of their statements is an important issue. In the course of investigation by police and social workers, children are often repeatedly interviewed about their experiences, though the impact of this repetition on children's true and false statements remains largely unexamined. The current study analysed semantic differences in children's truthful and fabricated statements about an event they had or had not participated in. Results revealed that children's truthful and fabricated reports differed in linguistic content, and that their language also varied with repetition. Discriminant analyses revealed that with repetition, children's true and false reports became increasingly difficult to differentiate using linguistic markers, though true reports were consistently classified correctly at higher rates than false reports. The implications of these findings for legal procedures concerning child witnesses are discussed.
    Psychiatry Psychology and Law 08/2012; 19(4). · 0.35 Impact Factor
  • Angela D. Evans, Thomas D. Lyon
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    ABSTRACT: Do you know and Do you remember (DYK/R) questions explicitly ask whether one knows or remembers some information, and implicitly ask for that information. This study examined how 106 4- to 9-year-old children, testifying in child sexual abuse cases, responded to DYK/R questions. About half of the time that children answered affirmatively to DYK/R questions containing an implicit wh- question, they responded with an unelaborated “yes,” thus failing to answer the implicit question. Attorneys’ follow-up questions suggested that children misunderstood the pragmatics of the questions. This raised a referential ambiguity problem with DYK/R questions containing an implicit yes-no question. Unelaborated “yes” or “no” responses could be responding to either the explicit or the implicit questions. Children provided such unelaborated responses in a large percentage of the cases, but attorneys rarely attempted to disambiguate children’s answers. The results suggest serious miscommunications caused by pragmatic misunderstanding and referential ambiguity when children testify.
    07/2012;
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    Genyue Fu, Angela D Evans, Fen Xu, Kang Lee
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    ABSTRACT: This study investigated whether young children make strategic decisions about whether to lie to conceal a transgression based on the lie recipient's knowledge. In Experiment 1, 168 3- to 5-year-olds were asked not to peek at the toy in the experimenter's absence, and the majority of children peeked. Children were questioned about their transgression in either the presence or absence of an eyewitness of their transgression. Whereas 4- and 5-year-olds were able to adjust their decisions of whether to lie based on the presence or absence of the eyewitness, 3-year-olds did not. Experiments 2 and 3 manipulated whether the lie recipient appeared to have learned information about children's peeking from an eyewitness or was merely bluffing. Results revealed that when the lie recipient appeared to be genuinely knowledgeable about their transgression, even 3-year-olds were significantly less likely to lie compared with when the lie recipient appeared to be bluffing. Thus, preschool children are able to make strategic decisions about whether to lie or tell the truth based on whether the lie recipient is genuinely knowledgeable about the true state of affairs.
    Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 06/2012; 113(1):147-58. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    Angela D Evans, Thomas D Lyon
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined children's accuracy in response to truth-lie competency questions asked in court. The participants included 164 child witnesses in criminal child sexual abuse cases tried in Los Angeles County over a 5-year period (1997-2001) and 154 child witnesses quoted in the U.S. state and federal appellate cases over a 35-year period (1974-2008). The results revealed that judges virtually never found children incompetent to testify, but children exhibited substantial variability in their performance based on question-type. Definition questions, about the meaning of the truth and lies, were the most difficult largely due to errors in response to "Do you know" questions. Questions about the consequences of lying were more difficult than questions evaluating the morality of lying. Children exhibited high rates of error in response to questions about whether they had ever told a lie. Attorneys rarely asked children hypothetical questions in a form that has been found to facilitate performance. Defense attorneys asked a higher proportion of the more difficult question types than prosecutors. The findings suggest that children's truth-lie competency is underestimated by courtroom questioning and support growing doubts about the utility of the competency requirements.
    Law and Human Behavior 06/2012; 36(3):195-205. · 2.16 Impact Factor
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    Angela D. Evans, Thomas D. Lyon
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined children’s accuracy in response to truth–lie competency questions asked in court. The participants included 164 child witnesses in criminal child sexual abuse cases tried in Los Angeles County over a 5-year period (1997–2001) and 154 child witnesses quoted in the U.S. state and federal appellate cases over a 35-year period (1974–2008). The results revealed that judges virtually never found children incompetent to testify, but children exhibited substantial variability in their performance based on question-type. Definition questions, about the meaning of the truth and lies, were the most difficult largely due to errors in response to “Do you know” questions. Questions about the consequences of lying were more difficult than questions evaluating the morality of lying. Children exhibited high rates of error in response to questions about whether they had ever told a lie. Attorneys rarely asked children hypothetical questions in a form that has been found to facilitate performance. Defense attorneys asked a higher proportion of the more difficult question types than prosecutors. The findings suggest that children’s truth–lie competency is underestimated by courtroom questioning and support growing doubts about the utility of the competency requirements.
    Law and Human Behavior 01/2012; · 2.16 Impact Factor
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    Nicholas Bala, Angela Evans, Emily Bala
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    ABSTRACT: This paper reviews common law and statutory developments in the treatment of children as witnesses in Canada’s criminal justice system, where children who are victims of abuse testify with increasing frequency. Historically, children were regarded as inherently unreliable witnesses, and there were no provisions to accommodate their needs and vulnerabilities; this treatment by the justice system contributed to the abuse and exploitation of children. Reflecting a growing body of research on child development, and a better understanding of the effects of the court process on children, over the past quarter century there have been substantial reforms in the law and the administration of justice. The law now better reflects what is known about the competency of child witnesses, as well as about their vulnerabilities. The paper includes a review of legislation and leading precedents, and a summary of the responses of Canadian judges to a survey about the most recent legislative reforms. The case law and survey reveal that judges are generally supportive of the reforms.
    10/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: Prior research has documented that Japanese children's performance on the Dimensional Change Card Sorting (DCCS) task can be influenced by their observation of another person completing the task, which is referred to as social transmission of disinhibition. The current study explored whether Canadian children would also show a social transmission of disinhibition and whether their performance would be comparable to that of Japanese children. In this study, 3- and 4-year-olds in Canada and Japan were given both the standard version and social version of the DCCS. Results indicated that Canadian children displayed the social transmission of disinhibition, but their effects were significantly weaker than those with Japanese children. On the other hand, performance on the standard DCCS was comparable between children in the two countries. We discuss the results in terms of cultural differences in the relationship between self and other.
    Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 10/2011; 111(2):156-63. · 3.12 Impact Factor
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    Angela D Evans, Kang Lee
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    ABSTRACT: The present investigation examined 8- to 16-year-olds' tendency to lie, the sophistication of their lies, and related cognitive factors. Participants were left alone and asked not to look at the answers to a test, but the majority peeked. The researcher then asked a series of questions to examine whether the participants would lie about their cheating and, if they did lie, evaluate the sophistication of their lies. Additionally, participants completed measures of working memory, inhibitory control, and planning skills. Results revealed that the sophistication of 8- to 16-year-olds' lies, but not their decision to lie, was significantly related to executive functioning skills.
    Developmental Psychology 05/2011; 47(4):1108-16. · 3.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The present study explored the relations among lie-telling ability, false belief understanding, and verbal mental age. We found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), like typically developing children, can and do tell antisocial lies (to conceal a transgression) and white lies (in politeness settings). However, children with ASD were less able than typically developing children to cover up their initial lie; that is, children with ASD had difficulty exercising semantic leakage control--the ability to maintain consistency between their initial lie and subsequent statements. Furthermore, unlike in typically developing children, lie-telling ability in children with ASD was not found to be related to their false belief understanding. Future research should examine the underlying processes by which children with ASD tell lies.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 02/2011; 41(2):185-95. · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    Angela D Evans, Fen Xu, Kang Lee
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    ABSTRACT: Young children's ability to tell a strategic lie by making it consistent with the physical evidence of their transgression was investigated along with the sociocognitive correlates of such lie-telling behaviors. In Experiment 1, 247 Chinese children between 3 and 5 years of age (126 boys) were left alone in a room and asked not to lift a cup to see the contents. If children lifted up the cup, the contents would be spilled and evidence of their transgression would be left behind. Upon returning to the room, the experimenter asked children whether they peeked and how the contents of the cup ended up on the table. Experiment 1 revealed that young children are able to tell strategic lies to be consistent with the physical evidence by about 4 or 5 years of age, and this ability increases in sophistication with age. Experiment 2, which included 252 Chinese 4-year-olds (127 boys), identified 2 sociocognitive factors related to children's ability to tell strategic lies. Specifically, both children's theory-of-mind understanding and inhibitory control skills were significantly related to their ability to tell strategic lies in the face of physical evidence. The present investigation reveals that contrary to the prevailing views, even young children are able to tell strategic lies in some contexts.
    Developmental Psychology 01/2011; 47(1):39-49. · 3.21 Impact Factor
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    Ivy Chiu Loke, Angela D Evans, Kang Lee
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    ABSTRACT: Providing help to others is a highly valued social practice. This study used neurophysiological methods to explore the neural correlates of individuals' reasoning about prosocial-helping behaviors and the relation between these correlates and self-reports of prosocial personality. Event-related potentials (ERP) were recorded while individuals reasoned about others' decisions to provide help or not provide help in situations where help was either obviously needed or not necessarily needed. Specific examination of the relation between self-reports of prosocial personality and the peak amplitude and latency of the P3, an ERP component considered to represent the perception and processing of a salient response, revealed that individuals' self-ratings of prosocialness were related to their ERPs. The findings from this study suggest that there are neural correlates for reasoning about prosocial-helping decisions and that there is a relation between these neural correlates and individuals' prosocial personality.
    Brain research 11/2010; 1369:140-8. · 2.46 Impact Factor
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    Angela D Evans, Kang Lee
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    ABSTRACT: Techniques commonly used to increase truth-telling in most North American jurisdiction courts include requiring witnesses to discuss the morality of truth- and lie-telling and to promise to tell the truth prior to testifying. While promising to tell the truth successfully decreases younger children's lie-telling, the influence of discussing the morality of honesty and promising to tell the truth on adolescents' statements has remained unexamined. In Experiment 1, 108 youngsters, aged 8-16 years, were left alone in the room and asked not to peek at the answers to a test. The majority of participants peeked at the test answers and then lied about their transgression. More importantly, participants were eight times more likely to change their response from a lie to the truth after promising to tell the truth. Experiment 2 confirmed that the results of Experiment 1 were not solely due to repeated questioning or the moral discussion of truth- and lie-telling. These results suggest that, while promising to tell the truth influences the truth-telling behaviors of adolescents, a moral discussion of truth and lies does not. Legal implications are discussed.
    Behavioral Sciences & the Law 09/2010; 28(6):801-11. · 0.96 Impact Factor

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