Motivational factors in children's reporting of events: The influence of age and expected reinforcement contingency

Katie M. Seidler, Pauline M. Howie*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In everyday as well as in forensic and clinical settings, children's motivation to report accurately on events they have experienced may be less than optimal. This study investigated the influence of motivation on first-grade and fourth-grade children's recall of a video they had seen. Motivation was manipulated by promising a small reward for reporting either the truth only or maximal information. Compared with a control group expecting noncontingent reinforcement, children expecting "amount-contingent" reinforcement provided more correct information in free recall, but at a cost of increased errors in both free recall and specific nonleading questions. Children expecting "truth-contingent" reinforcement were no more likely than the control group to give correct responses to specific questions, but their overall accuracy was markedly higher than that of the control group. Accuracy of free recall was consistently high regardless of reinforcement contingency. There was evidence that reinforcement contingencies differentially affect responses to misleading and nonleading questions. No significant interactions occurred between age and reinforcement contingency, but some trends merit further investigation. Implications for Social Cognitive Theory and theories of motivated memory are discussed, and applications to children's testimony are explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-118
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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