Our Students in Action

Stacia Stolzenberg

Children's Eyewitness Testimony

Stacia Stolzenberg, Developmental Psychology doctoral student, had a background working with victims of child abuse even before her graduate programs in Claremont. During her previous work, she became sensitive to her clients’ experience with the investigation process—in particular, the likelihood of distorting children’s testimony through the questioning techniques used. Some children were pressured to answer questions, and some were repeatedly interviewed, thus influencing the children’s responses. Her internship for an organization that counsels abused children inspired Stacia to join the applied developmental psychology program at CGU and focus her research efforts on trying to help victims of child abuse.

Paired with cognitive psychology professor Dr. Kathy Pezdek, Stacia found her interests surpassing the boundaries of traditional developmental psychology and into the cognitive field. She is currently pursuing her thesis on interviewing child witnesses. The purpose of the study is to develop ways to interview children that produce accurate, non-fabricated responses. During this process she will discover how the various ways of framing questions can lead to a variety of inaccurate eyewitness responses.

Pre-trial interviews with police and detectives may alter the memory of children before formal testimony, which is very problematic. In response to this difficulty, Stacia and Dr. Pezdek are also studying the effects of interviewing on the accuracy of children’s recall.

Stacia hopes that, with her research, she can influence this area of the criminal justice system to improve eyewitness testimony and make those in the field more sensitive to the eyewitness experience.