Warren, K.L., Peterson, C., & Compton-Gillingham, C. (2018). Children who are coached to lie: Does linguistic analysis help us understand why these children are so believable? Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law, 25(5), 789-805. doi: 10.1080/13218719.2018.1478336
The usefulness of linguistic analysis in determining the veracity of children’s reports was examined. The Linguistic Inquiry Word Count 2007 program was used to analyze 95 stories told by 5-14 year-old children who were telling the truth or a lie about the stressful experiences of breaking a bone or requiring sutures for serious lacerations. Half of these children were coached by parents in preparing their story over the four days prior to giving their report. Differences emerged in the linguistic style used as a function of the child’s age, whether or not the child was coached, and the event veracity. Very few linguistic categories emerged as significant predictors of event veracity and the variables that did emerge were different depending upon whether or not the child had been coached. Since in real-life situations one seldom knows children’s coaching history, findings suggest it is inappropriate to use linguistic analysis to assess the veracity of children’s reports.