The Productivity of Wh- Prompts when Children Testify

Samantha J. Andrews, Elizabeth C. Ahern, Stacia Roosevelt, Thomas D. Lyon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    32 Scopus citations


    Wh- prompts (what, how, why, who, when, and where) vary widely in their specificity and accuracy, but differences among them have largely been ignored in research examining the productivity of different question types in child testimony. We examined 120 six- to 12-year-olds' criminal court testimony in child sexual abuse cases to compare the productivity of various wh- prompts. We distinguished among wh- prompts, most notably the following: what/how-happen prompts focusing generally on events, what/how-dynamic prompts focusing on actions or unfolding processes/events, what/how-causality prompts focusing on causes and reasons, and what/how-static prompts focusing on non-action contextual information regarding location, objects, and time. Consistent with predictions, what/how-happen prompts were the most productive, and both what/how-dynamic prompts and wh- prompts about causality were more productive than other wh- prompts. Prosecutors asked proportionally more what/how-dynamic prompts and fewer what/how-static prompts than defense attorneys. Future research and interviewer training may benefit from finer discrimination among wh- prompts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)341-349
    Number of pages9
    JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - May 1 2016

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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