“You can Point to This Card”: Trialling the use of Visual Aids in Teaching Children to use Ground Rules in Forensic Interviewing.
AbstractOften when children are interviewed, they are taught ground rules to help guide their responses to questions. Ground rules are utilised frequently in forensic interviewing, but there remain questions about their functionality and efficacy. This research examined the use of visual cue cards to teach children ground rules, First, we piloted the use of realistic photographs versus cartoon-like emoticons when responding us ground rules, and children showed an overwhelming preference for emoticons, so visual cue cards were developed using emoticons displaying gestures representing the ground rules. Then, 89 children aged 5-12 years participated in a staged event and were subsequently interviewed about it. Children were randomly assigned to a “business as usual” (BAU) control group (verbal instruction only) or to the visual aids (VA) group (verbal and visual instruction). We predicted that children in VA would respond better to training questions, and to challenge questions; and that they would spontaneously utilise ground rules more than those in BAU. Results did not support these hypotheses. Performance in responding with ground rules was relatively poor despite condition, with no significant differences in responding observed. Spontaneous use of ground rules was negatively correlated with age, indicating that older children spontaneously utilised ground rules significantly less than younger children. Theoretical research implications are discussed. We conclude that the current method of training children to use ground rules are not effective, and we have demonstrated that visual cue cards do not provide sufficient support for children in this context. Future research should explore a more comprehensive training method which includes an extended verbal instruction of the ground rules and incorporates more varied and nuanced opportunities for children to practice using ground rules.