Interviewing at the scene of the crime: Effects on children's recall of alleged abuse

Yael Orbach, Irit Hershkowitz, Michael E. Lamb, Kathleen J. Sternberg, Dvora Horowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose. This study was designed to determine whether environmental contextual cues, provided by visits to the scenes of alleged abuse, would facilitate the recall of information by alleged victims of child sexual abuse. Method. Participants were 96 4- to 13-year-olds who reported being victims of sexual abuse. Of the children, 50 were interviewed in the investigators' offices, and 46 were interviewed at the scene of the alleged abuse. Analyses focused on the effects of interview location, age, delay betweeen incident and interview, number of reported incidents, and familiarity with the scene on the number of details provided in office interviews and at the scene. Results. Children in the two groups did not differ with respect to the number of informative details reported. On average, children interviewed at the office reported 231.8 details, whereas children interviewed at the scene reported 234.7 details. In both interviewing conditions, older children (aged 7-9 and 10-13 years) provided significantly more details than younger children (aged 4-6 years). Children who experienced multiple incidents provided significantly more details than children who reported experiencing single incidents. No significant interactions between environmental contextual cues, age, delay, scene familiarity and number of incidents were apparent. Conclusions. The present study is a pioneering attempt to examine the value of physical context reinstatement in forensic settings. The results may also guide future research on contextual cueing in forensic settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-147
Number of pages13
JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Applied Psychology


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