Child Memory Lab
Research in the Child Memory Lab focuses on the accuracy of children’s memories for things they have experienced and learned. We also work with forensic investigators on investigating different interviewing practices when attempting to extract the most reliable memories possible from children.
Child Memory Lab Research
Click here to view a representative sample of published research from our lab.
Research in our lab generally focuses on how children learn and remember information. In this information age, children are bombarded with information from more sources than we’ve ever had before (the internet, television, video games, interactive museums, peers, parents, teachers, etc.).
- What do children do with this information?
- How does it affect their learning?
- How does it affect their memories of their own experiences?
- Do children remember where they learned information?
- Do they distinguish between credible and less credible sources of information (between credible and less credible websites)?
These are the sorts of questions we think are critical to answer if we are to ensure that children become effective consumers of information. The discoveries we make have implications for education, the legal system, as well as children’s own well-being and sense of who they are.
Through this research, we work with educators, forensic investigators (i.e., police & social workers), in an effort to better understand the cognitive and social (i.e., interviewing style used) factors that might affect the accuracy of a child’s eyewitness testimony.
Applications of Our Work
Children’s Memory and the Classroom
Many of the expectations within the Ontario Curriculum involve “source monitoring” (the ability to distinguish where learned something from). Although we know that children get better at this skill with age, it is not well understood how we teach this skill to children, and how it is taught within classrooms. Similarly, we need a better understanding of how childrenassimilate information from different sources to develop a general understanding of a topic (i.e., incorporating what they learned about horses on an interactive website and what they learned in class about horses).
Children’s Memory and Forensic Investigations
Children’s memories are crucial in criminal investigations such as sexual abuse when there is little physical or medical evidence and children’s testimony about what happened often constitutes the only evidence that police and lawyers can use to prosecute. Highly-publicized sexual abuse cases in the 1980’s all over the world cast doubt on the use of children’s testimony because many of those convicted have more recently been acquitted. Since then, researchers have studied children’s memories of personal experiences and a variety of techniques for eliciting complete and accurate accounts from children. Research by myself and others has shown that children’s reports are most accurate when children questioned with “open-ended” prompts that allow them to choose what information to report (e.g., “Tell me what happened” instead of “Did x happen?”). Although some children find answering such general prompts difficult, they can be trained in a rapport-building phase.One potential source of error in children’s testimony is the incorporation of information from other events into their reports of the crime. For example, children may report inaccurate information that was earlier suggested to them, or they may confuse memories of different crimes they have experienced. Such errors that occur are more likely to show up in response to focused or yes/no questions than open-ended questions, and when the events varied slightly each time (e.g., music always played but the music was slightly different each time).
Roberts, K.P., & Blades, M. (Eds.) (2000). Children’s source monitoring: Current trends and future directions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Chapters in books
- Brubacher, S.P., Bala, N.C., Roberts, K., & Price, H. (2016). Investigative Interviewing of Witnesses and Victims in Canada (pp245-255). In D. Walsh. G.E. Oxburgh, A. Redlich, & T. Myklebust, (Eds.). International Developments and Practices in Investigative Interviewing and Interrogation, Volume I. Routledge, UK.
- Roberts, K.P., Drohan-Jennings, D., Brubacher, S.P. (2014). The developmental aspects of the young child in child maltreatment cases. In A. Giardino & R. Alexander (Eds.). Child maltreatment: A clinical guide and reference (4th Ed.) (Chapter 16). GW Medical Publishing, Inc. St. Louis, MO.
- Roberts, K.P., Brubacher, S.P., Price, H.L., & Powell, M.B. (2011). Practice narratives (pp.129-145). In Lamb, M.E., La Rooy, D., Katz, C., & Malloy, L. Children’s testimony: A Handbook of psychological research and forensic practice. Wiley-Blackwell
- Evans, A.D., & Roberts, K.P. (2009). Children in an information society: The relations between source monitoring, mental-state understanding and knowledge acquisition in young children (pp235-252). M. R. Kelley (Ed.) Applied Memory. Hauppage, NY: Nova Science Publishers
- Roberts, K.P., & Evans, A.D. (2008). Protecting alleged victims of child abuse in adult-based judicial systems. In T. O’Neill & D. Zinga (Eds.). Children’s Rights: Theory, Policy, and Practice. (pp.195-215). University of Toronto Press: Toronto, Ontario.
- Brady, A., Roberts, K.P., & Giardino, A. (2005). The developmental aspects of the young child in child maltreatment cases. In A. Giardino & R. Alexander (Eds.). Child maltreatment: A clinical guide and reference (3rd Ed.) (pp 343-366). GW Medical Publishing, Inc. St. Louis, MO.
- Roberts, K.P. (2000). Children’s source monitoring: An introduction. In K.P. Roberts & M. Blades (Eds.). Children’s source monitoring (pp. 1-11). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Roberts, K.P. (2000). An overview of theory and research on children’s source monitoring. In K.P. Roberts & M. Blades (Eds.), Children’s source monitoring. (pp. 11-57). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Roberts, K.P. (2000). Children’s source monitoring: Conclusions? In K.P. Roberts & M. Blades (Eds.), Children’s source monitoring (pp. 317-336). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Roberts, K.P., & Blades, M. (2000). Discriminating between memories of television and real-life. In K.P. Roberts & M. Blades (Eds.), Children’s source monitoring. (pp. 147-169). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Roberts, K.P., & Blades, M. (1996). Children’s eyewitness testimony for real-life and fantasy events. In G.M. Stephenson & N.K. Clark (Eds.), Investigative and Forensic Decision-Making. Issues in Criminological Psychology Series. (pp. 52-57). Leicester, UK: British Psychological Society.
- Roberts, K.P., & Blades, M. (1996). Children’s memories of events on TV and witnessed in real life. In H. Gray, N. Foreman, & N. Hayes (Eds.), Psychology in a Changing Europe (pp. 283-286). Moscow: Innostraniya Psichologiya [Foreign Psychology].
- Journal Articles
Published in peer-reviewed journals (Student names are underlined)
Danby. M., Brubacher, S.P., Sharman, S.J. Powell M.B., & Roberts, K.P. (2017). Children’s reasoning about which episode of a repeated event is best remembered. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 99-108. DOI: 10.1002/acp.3306
Roberts, K.P., Evans, A.E., & Duncanson, S. (in press). Binding an event to its source improves source monitoring. Developmental Psychology.
Roberts, K.P., Qi, H., & Zhang, H.H. (in press). Challenges Facing East Asian Immigrant Children in Sexual Abuse Cases. Canadian Psychology, Special Issue on Immigrants and Refugees
La Rooy, David,. Brubacher, S.P., Aromäki-Stratos, A., Cyr, M., Hershkowitz, I., Korkman, J., Myklebust, T., Naka, M., Peixoto, C.E., Roberts, K.P., Stewart, H. & Lamb, M.E. (2015). The NICHD Protocol: A review of an internationally-used evidence-based tool for training child forensic interviewers, Journal of Criminological Research, Policy, and Practice, 1, 76-89 dx.doi.org/10.1108/JCRPP-01-2015-0001.
Roberts, K.P., & Cameron, S.C. (2015). Observations from Canadian practitioners about the investigation and prosecution of crimes involving child and adult witnesses. Journal of Forensic Psychology and Practice, 15, 33-57.
Powell, M. B., Burrows, K. S., Brubacher, S. P., & Roberts, K. P. (in press). Prosecutors’ perceptions on questioning children about repeated abuse. Psychiatry, Psychology, & Law. Accepted Aug 4, 2015. Doi: 10.1080/13218719.2017.1273749.
Brubacher, S.P., Powell M.B., & Roberts, K.P. (2014). Recommendations for Interviewing Children about Repeated Experiences. Psychology, Public Policy, & Law. 20, 325-335. ,
Earhart, R. & Roberts, K.P. (2014) The Role of executive function in children’s source monitoring with varying retrieval strategies. Frontiers in Psychology doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00405
Roberts, K.P., Brubacher, S.P., Drohan-Jennings, D., Glisic, U., Friedman, W., & Powell, M.B. (2015) Developmental Differences in the Ability to provide Temporal Information about Repeated Events Applied Cognitive Psychology, 29, 410-417.
Newman, J., & Roberts, K.P. (2014). Subjective and non-subjective information in children’s allegations of abuse, Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 29, 75-80.
Brubacher, S.P., Malloy, L.C., Lamb, M.E., & Roberts, K.P. (2013). How do interviewers and children discuss individual occurrences of alleged repeated abuse in forensic interviews? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27, 443-450.
Brubacher, S.P., Roberts, K.P., & Obhi, S. (2013). Gaze, goals and growing up: Effects on imitative grasping. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 31, 318-333.
Gosse, L. L., & Roberts, K.P. (2014). Eliciting temporal information in children’s memories using pictorial and verbal recall techniques. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 29, 36-43.
Price, H., Roberts, K. P., & Collins, A. (2013). The quality of children’s allegations of abuse in investigative interviews containing practice narratives. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 1-6.
Brubacher, S.P., Roberts, K.P., & Powell, M.B. (2012). Retrieval of episodic versus generic information: Does the order of recall affect the amount and accuracy of details reported by children about repeated events? Developmental Psychology, 48, 111-122.
Sharman, S.J., Powell, M.B. & Roberts, K.P. (2011). Children’s ability to estimate the frequency of single and repeated events. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 13, 234-242.
 This article was selected in the 2016 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence. http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/authors/literati/awards.htm?year=2016&journal=jcrpp
Feltis, B.B., Powell, M.B., & Roberts, K.P. (2011). The effect of event repetition on the production of story-grammar in children’s event narratives. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(3), 180-187. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu2010.11.004
Schneider, L., Price, H.L., Roberts, K.P., & Hedrick, A. (2011). Children’s episodic and generic reports of alleged abuse. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 862-870. Article first published online: 1 DEC 2010. DOI: 10.1002/acp.1759
*Brubacher, S., *Glisic, U., Roberts, K.P., & Powell, M.B. (2011). Children’s ability to recall unique aspects of one occurrence of a repeated event. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 351-358. * These authors contributed equally to this manuscript.
Brubacher, S., Roberts, K.P., & Powell, M.B. (2011). The Effects of practicing episodic versus scripted recall on children’s subsequent narratives of a repeated event. Psychology, Public Policy, & Law, 17, 286-314.
Price, H. L. & Roberts, K. P. (2011). The effects of an intensive training and feedback program on police and social workers’ investigative interviews of children. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 43, 235-244.
Rischke, A., Roberts, K.P., & Price, H.L. (2011). Using spaced learning principles to translate knowledge into behavior: Evidence from investigative interviews of alleged child abuse victims. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 26, 58-67. DOI: 10.1007/s11896-010-9073-8
Drohan-Jennings, D. Roberts, K.P., & Powell, M.B. (2010). Mental context reinstatement increases resistance to misleading suggestions. Psychiatry, Psychology, & Law, 17, 594-606.
Evans, A.D., Roberts, K.P., Price, H.L., & Stefek, C. (2010). The use of paraphrasing in investigative interviews. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34, 585-592. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.01.008
Roberts, K.P., & Lamb, M.E. (2010). Reality-monitoring characteristics in confirmed and doubtful allegations of abuse. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 1049-1079. 1st published online 1 Sep 2009. DOI: 10.1002/acp.1600
Dr Kim P Roberts
Wilfrid Laurier University
Tel: 001 519 884 0710
Dr. Kim Roberts is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier Univeristy, where she has been since 2001. Prior to this, Dr. Roberts worked for five years at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda Maryland with Dr. Michael Lamb (pioneer of the NICHD interviewing protocol). Dr. Roberts has held research grants and worked with police and social workers in the US, Canada, Australia, and Britain. She is recipient of the Premier’s Research Excellence Award for her work on children’s memory. For more information, please visit Dr. Roberts’ Faculty page.