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anales de psicología, 2015, vol.

31, nº 1 (enero), 338-344

© Copyright 2015: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Murcia. Murcia (España)
ISSN edición impresa: 0212-9728. ISSN edición web ( 1695-2294

Evaluating the Credibility of Statements Given by Persons with Intellectual Disability
Antonio L. Manzanero1*, Alberto Alemany2, María Recio2, Rocío Vallet1 y Javier Aróztegui1

Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain)
Fundación Carmen Pardo-Valcarce (Spain)

Título: Evaluación de la credibilidad de relatos de personas con discapacidad intelectual.
Resumen: El objetivo del presente trabajo consistió en analizar las características diferenciales de los relatos emitidos por víctimas reales y simuladas
con discapacidad intelectual ligera y moderada mediante el procedimiento
de análisis de credibilidad de Control de la Realidad (RM). Dos evaluadores
entrenados en los procedimientos de análisis de credibilidad mediante criterios de contenido evaluaron 13 relatos verdaderos y 16 relatos falsos. Los
resultados encontrados muestran que existen pocas diferencias entre los
dos tipos de relatos. Los únicos criterios que resultan significativos para
discriminar entre los dos tipos de relatos son la cantidad de detalles y la
longitud de las declaraciones espontáneas obtenidas mediante recuerdo libre. Ninguna de las características fenomenológicas examinadas resultó significativa para discriminar entre víctimas reales y simuladas. La representación gráfica mediante visualización hiperdimensional (HDV) considerando
conjuntamente todos los criterios muestra una gran heterogeneidad entre
relatos. Un análisis de conglomerados permitió clasificar los dos tipos de relatos con una probabilidad de acierto del 68.75 por ciento.
Palabras clave: Evaluación de credibilidad; discapacidad intelectual; criterios de contenido; testimonio; visualización hiper-dimensional.

It has been proposed that lying would be cognitively more
complex than telling the truth (Vrij, Fisher, Mann, & Leal,
2006) because it would involve a greater demand for cognitive resources (Vrij & Heaven, 1999). This is reflected in
some clichés about persons with intellectual disability that
suggest they would not be capable of making up complex
lies and, therefore, would be more believable (Bottoms,
Nysse-Carris, Harris, & Tyda, 2003). These clichés carry a
negative charge, however, that results in persons with ID being viewed as witnesses who are less credible and less capable of giving valid testimony (Henry, Ridley, Perry, & Crane,
2011; Peled, Iarocci, & Connolly, 2004; Sabsey & Doe, 1991;
Stobbs & Kebbell, 2003; Tharinger, Horton, & Millea, 1990;
Valenti-Hein & Schwartz, 1993), which makes persons with
ID more vulnerable to crimes (González, Cendra, & Manzanero, 2013). Peled et al. (2004) explored the perceived
credibility of young persons with ID who were required to
give testimony in a legal setting. Half of the observers were
told beforehand that the witness had moderate intellectual
disability, and the other half were told that the witness was a
person who was developmentally normal. When subsequently questioned about the credibility of the testimonies, they
stated that those testimonies given by a person with ID were
considered less credible. Henry et al. (2011) evaluated the
credibility of children with ID and of developmentally nor* Dirección para correspondencia [Correspondence address]:
Antonio Manzanero. Facultad de Psicología. Universidad Complutense
de Madrid. 28223 Madrid (España).

Abstract: The objective of this study was to analyze the features that distinguish statements given by actual and simulated victims with mild to
moderate intellectual disability, using the credibility analysis procedure
known as Reality Monitoring (RM). Two evaluators trained in credibility
analysis procedures using content criteria evaluated 13 true statements and
16 false statements. The results obtained show that there is little difference
between the two types of statements when analyzed on the basis of content
criteria using the RM procedure. The only criteria that proved to be significant for discriminating between the two types of statements were the
amount of details and the length of spontaneous statements obtained
through free recall. None of the phenomenological characteristics studied
turned out to be significant for discriminating between actual and simulated victims. Graphic representation using high-dimensional visualization
(HDV) with all criteria taken into consideration shows that the two types
of statements are quite heterogeneous. Cluster analysis can group cases
with a 68.75% chance of accuracy.
Key words: Credibility assessment; intellectual disability; content criteria;
eyewitness testimony; high-dimensional visualization.

mal children and found that the former, because they gave
fewer details, were less credible than the latter. They found
no correlation between the credibility evaluations and either
mental age or anxiety.
The generally lower credibility attributed to persons with
ID suggests an enormous need for a technical credibility
analysis procedure that is adapted for this type of victim so
that evaluation of their testimony is not left to intuition—
which, on most occasions, is biased (Manzanero, Quintana,
& Contreras, 2015). Such procedures do not exist at this
time, however, which means that persons with ID are often
excluded from the justice system or evaluated on the basis
of a comparison with children. This situation would be exacerbated by failure to adapt legal and law enforcement procedures to the abilities of these individuals (Recio, Alemany,
& Manzanero, 2012). Such adaptations could mitigate this
serious situation, for it has been shown that, with sufficient
adaptations, persons with ID are capable of identifying an alleged assailant in a line-up (Manzanero, Contreras, Recio,
Alemany, & Martorell, 2012), even though they do not perform as well on this type of task, to begin with, as individuals who do not have ID (Manzanero, Recio, Alemany, &
Martorell, 2011).
Forensic psychology has proposed various procedures
for evaluating credibility through analysis of statement content (Manzanero, 2001). One of these procedures is the Reality Monitoring (RM) technique (Johnson & Raye, 1981;
Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993) which is suggested
for evaluating statement credibility.
RM’s basic assumption is that statements based on
memories of actual events are qualitatively different from
statements that are not based on experience or are simply

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using the features proposed under the framework of Reality Monitoring (RM) processes—the ultimate purpose being to develop procedures adapted for these victims. Manzanero. characteristics of the statements could vary in relation to the participant’s ability to generate a plausible statement. & Aróztegui. the preparation (Manzanero & Diges. & Pérez-Castro. In any case. however. Some previous studies have shown that criteria traditionally used to distinguish actual victims from simulated victims. from information perceived from different sources that is re-elaborated to create a new statement. Johnson and Raye (1981) proposed that there are four types of essential attributes by which we could differentiate between the two types of information stored in memory. of any study on the characteristics that differentiate true statements from false statements in this population. the wide variability in memory origin means that the characteristics differentiating fantasies. 1995. as well as the type of design used in the research conducted (Bensi. numerous research studies have been conducted to explore the characteristics that differentiate statements of varying origin. D'Argembeau. for these differences between the two types of statements have not been consistently found (Masip.18 years (SD=7. 1995). while self-generated memories would contain more information about cognitive operations. 1995). 1986. and contextual factors (Campos & Alonso-Quecuty. the asking of questions and multiple recall (Manzanero.30 (SD=9. Foley. 2013). vol. changing a small detail of an actual event—even a very important detail. 1984. On the other hand. Kahan. & Giusberti.16). lies. as Johnson and Raye (1981) had shown. dreams. Nori. 2006. & Rodríguez. 1995. According to the original proposition. 1993). 2004). who were asked to assume the perspective of either false protagonist or actual bystander for an automobile accident. 1998). Alemany. 1988. In a first approximation. 1981. Likewise.67) and a mean chronological age of 35. previous knowledge (Diges. & Raye. 1994. Many who do research in this area have shown this to be an erroneous assumption. Franklin. This was the reason for conducting the following experiment: to analyze the differences between statements given by actual and simulated victims with ID. in part. with a mean IQ of 59.. As subsequent research was expanding the list of differentiating attributes (see Table 1). would not be useful with the ID population (Manzanero. nº 1 (enero) . and post-event information are not the same. would depend on the ac- 339 tivation (Diges. 1989. such as the emotions associated with their statements. simultaneously. submitted) using participants with no intellectual disability. & Loftus. the perceptive modality (Henkel et al..72 (SD=9.75 years (SD=6. and sixteen were simulated victims. López. however. than the latter. 2009). Bengtsson. Johnson. & Aróztegui. Dimensions of memory descriptions that could be important in distinguishing their origin. 31. actual statements would contain more contextual and sensory information and show less allusion to cognitive processes and idiosyncratic information than fabricated statements. Gerhard. with a mean IQ of 60. Schooler. Thirteen of the participants were actual victims. such as whether the role played in the event was witness or protagonist—is not the same thing as fabricating the entire event (Manzanero. Sensory information Details of the spatial and temporal context of the event (internal) Details of the environmental context (external) Allusions to cognitive processes Hesitant expressions Irrelevant or superfluous information Explanations Self-references Exaggerations Recall perspective Personal opinions and comments Fillers Pauses Spontaneous corrections Changes of order Length of the statement Among other factors.44) and a mean chronological age of 33. Sporer. anales de psicología. there are varying degrees of remove from the actual information. 2006). Method Participants Twenty-nine persons with intellectual disability participated in the study. We are not aware. 1988). Strömwall. Leander. The theoretical framework for explaining how statements of different origins may be distinguished is found in the meta-cognitive reality monitoring processes defined by Johnson (Johnson & Raye. showed that the former were more heterogeneous. dreams. lies. the time delayed (Manzanero. Rubio. such as memories of actual events. Suengas & Johnson. The hope was that similar results would be obtained in this study. & Raye. however. Johnson. Manzanero & Diges. Suengas. & Granhag. the individual’s age (Comblain. 2005). the presence of characteristic features in true statements. Recio. Johnson et al. Gambetti. false statements are never entirely fabricated but originate. 2009. & Johnson. 2009). although the two types of statements differed on very few points (Figure 1). 2015. phenomenologically. 1992). Previous research studies (Manzanero. Memories of perceptive origin would have more contextual and sensory attributes and more semantic details. For example. 2000). the data was showing. or false memories derived from post-event information (Diges. & Van der Linden. Even for each modality. Based on their proposals. Table 1. Henkel. Johnson. as opposed to statements arising from imagined or suggested facts. 2000.78). that the presence of these distinctive features depends on the influence of a host of factors. Lindsay & Johnson. Garrido.Evaluating the Credibility of Statements Given by Persons with Intellectual Disability the product of fantasy. 2005). & Herrero. 2009. El-Astal. Manzanero. 1988. fantasies. imagination.

In addition.irrelevant information: information that is correct but is not a central part of the event .. in fact. Figure 1.hesitant expressions: implies doubt about what is being described (it could be. Each of the persons with ID was given instructions and informed of the purpose of the research. For correcting amount of detail. it’s likely.spontaneous corrections: corrections occurring in the description of the facts . vol. describing as objectively as possible what happened in the actual event.. I remember… my attention was focused on.contextual information: information referring to spatial and temporal data about the area where the accident took place . In addition. a chart was made of the micropropositions. by being excessive or lacking. I heard. to avoid putting them under too much pressure to make the interviewer believe their testimony. The degree of agreement between encoders [AI = agreements / (agreements + disagreements)] for all measurements analyzed was greater than . and how the day went.exaggerations: descriptions that. interviewed each participant individually. 2015. we chose an incentive that was not stressful—they would be invited for a soda if they succeeded in convincing the interviewer that they had. The remaining measurements are defined as follows: . distort the facts .pauses: silences during the participant’s narration of the facts . on the basis of criteria for the ―true‖ group—did go on the day trip—and the ―false‖ group—did not go on the day trip but knew about the event from references made to it. all of comparable IQ. such as the location. All persons with ID who participated in the study (or their legal guardians) signed a consent for voluntary participation.340 Antonio L. with any reference to the participant’s group eliminated.3%. with all content criteria taken into account. Correct classification = 94. 1977).self-references: references the participant makes to himself when describing the event .sensory information: information referring to sensory and geographical data that appeared in reality: colors. experts at interviewing and taking testimony. experienced the event. positions… . A researcher selected the participants. I think that.length: number of words in the statement All measurements. Sammon’s error = .‖ Once the free statement was obtained. However. it seems that. We increased the ecological validity of our study by encouraging all participants in the two groups to do their best when giving their testimony.personal opinions and comments: assessments of aspects of the event and the participant’s personal additions . Two trained evaluators assessed each statement individually on each of the content criteria proposed in the RM procedure (see Table 2). were measured by counting the number of times each one occurred in the statements. Manzanero et al.80 (Tversky. during which the bus they were traveling in caught fire. The same instructions were given for all interviews conducted: ―We want you to tell us what happened when you went on the day trip and the bus caught fire… from beginning to end. . Two ―blind‖ researchers. with the exception of length.changes of order: alteration of the event’s natural order of occurrence: introduction. those participants who did not go on the day trip were given a summary of the most important information about the trip.. development. I saw.explanations: information that expands upon the description of the facts by providing a functional reference . all participants were asked the same questions: Who were you with? Where was it? Where were you going? What did you yourself do? and What happened afterwards? The interviews were conducted in random order. something makes me think… . HDV graph of the content criteria for true statements (black dots) and false statements (white dots). We want you to tell us even things that you might think are not very important. anales de psicología. the persons with ID who belonged to the false statement group were told explicitly that they had the option to lie and were assured there would be no negative consequences if they did so. thereby preventing undue tension. and conclusion . nº 1 (enero) with as much detail as you can give. 31. and then an interjudge agreement was reached.allusions to cognitive processes: information in which some cognitive process is explicitly mentioned: I imagined. a real event was chosen that happened two years ago—a day trip taken by a group of persons with ID from the Carmen Pardo-Valcarce Foundation. (Manzanero et al. An audiovisual recording was made of all interviews.034.Fillers: pet words or phrases that are repeated out of habit throughout the statement . submitted) Procedure To conduct this research. The interview tapes were transcribed to facilitate analysis of the phenomenological characteristics of the statements. sizes.) . the trip’s primary complication.

56 1.51 0.70 1.05. 1-β=.42 8.11 75. p <.042 7.006 .051 0.00 0.43 5. more similar to those of the latter group.31 134.398 1. η2=.91 . There were no significant effects on the rest of the criteria. As may be observed in HDV graph.44 2.57 135.12 0.20 6.26 1.146 ..17 6.07 193.15 0. η2=.88 11.78 1.156.673 ** Significant effects p <.29 .71 116.94 1.00 1.398.010 1.36 16.68 16. one possible explanation for the scant difference between the two types of statements stems from intersubject variability. while true statements were correctly classified in 6 cases (40% of total true statement). and length of statement [F(1. phenomenologically.13 1.01.31)=5.66 1.02 1.80 4. with all the measurements analyzed taken into consideration.53 .049 .40 0.00 1.57 1.93 1. exaggerations [F(1. η2=.31 6.81 5.20 0.13 0.14 0.82 .28 2.00 1.599].033 .169 -.71 5.39 6.16 0.72 1.42 0.76 0.00 4. 1-β=.14 . Sammon’s error = .028 0.58 1. η2=.36 .75 .03 1.57 0.683. in some cases. p <.35 3.01.104 0.10 10.44 7.156 ** Significant effects p <.56 0.31)=5.31)=5.80 1.043 5.037 0.89 4.150.40 1.01.029 0.20 0.53 1.218. Table 3.28 25. vol.27 1. with all content criteria taken into account. nº 1 (enero) .31)=5. 31. 2002). HDV graph of the content criteria for true statements (white dots) and false statements (black dots). η2=. 1β=. Mean and standard deviation for content criteria and effect size (R2).053 144.90 1.21 1.35 1.004 20.24 1.64 1.24 63.42 9.96 1.50 400.82 0.800.618].48 2. False Statement M SD Amount of detail ** Sensory information Contextual information Cognitive processes Hesitant expressions Irrelevant information Explanations Selfreferences Exaggerations Opinions / comments Fillers Pauses Corrections Changes of order Length* True Statement M SD Total M SD R2 7.92 R2 .01 . As a way to appreciate the differences between the two types of statements.05.975]. Steyvers.14 1. 1-β =.37 0. * significant effects p <. 1β=.745].46 7. η2=.663. p <.06 166.52 0.44 1.10 .17 0.449.31 1.52 0.013.00 1. η2 =..60 13. Table 2 shows the mean scores and standard deviations for false statements and true statements and the totals for each criterion. pauses [F(1.007 .15 1.14 249.52 0.31)= 0.05. K-Means Cluster Analysis grouped 25 cases as false and 7 as true. η2=.332 .35 0. the main reason is that the actual victims’ statements are more heterogeneous than the simulated victims’ statements—for those of the former group are.58 1. Manzanero et al. Table 2.1% of total Figure 2.99 .1.300.05. in relation to statement origin.353.021 .17 4.71 0.05.068 .55 7. 1β=.122 .42 .47 1.22 0.022 .526.15 1.42 .92 14.120 .20 0. false statements).990] and length of statement [F(1. and a cluster analysis was performed to classify participants into two groups.42 1.04 1.26 21.37 0. 1β=.76 0.23 28.00 10. 1β=.00 1. 2015. in relation to cluster groups Amount of detail ** Sensory information Contextual information Cognitive processes Hesitant expressions Irrelevant information Explanations * Self-references * Exaggerations * Opinions / comments Fillers Pauses * Corrections Changes of order * Length** Cluster A Cluster B M SD M SD 8.85 1. p <.05 0. factorial analysis (ANOVA) of the content criteria proposed in RM showed that amount of detail [F(1.93 4. p <.606].016 3.50 . p <.320.04 1.000] were significant (see Table 3).60 8.29 9.03 0.74 10. anales de psicología.28 0.67 .31)=16.91 0.04 0. the false statements were correctly classified in 16 cases (94. 2008.51 0.49 4.18 11. Mean and standard deviation for content criteria and effect size (R2).31)=7.020 .148. explanations [F(1.27 2.83 1.68 .624] were significant. If we tried to classify the two types of statements based on all the phenomenological characteristics considered in the RM technique. self-references [F(1.42 6. When cluster A is considered equal to simulation and B equal to actual. which would indicate that this technique has low diagnostic capability.28 4. When cluster groups are considered. As may be appreciated from the graph in Figure 2.02 6.90 6. * significant effects p <. 2009.13 0.67 1.13 6. the data was represented graphically through a high-dimensional visualization (HDV) technique used in other studies (Buja et al.33 0.01.341 Evaluating the Credibility of Statements Given by Persons with Intellectual Disability Results Factorial analysis (ANOVA) of the content criteria proposed in RM showed that only amount of detail [F(1.100 0.31)=19.24 0.05 3. p <.375.154.004 0.125 . p <.21 0.11 1.04 0.75 1.

the time elapsed. many persons with ID also have great difficulty situating events in time and space (Bailey et al. Therefore. might shed more light on content-based lie detection procedures. generally speaking. Esses. there is an abundance of literature that points out inconsistencies in the attributes differentiating true statements from false statements. Van Koppen. nº 1 (enero) Further research with these criteria. such as the type of event described. submitted). we may affirm that there are complexities involved in analyzing the credibility of testimony given by an adult person with ID and. In that study. one runs the risk of issuing an erroneous assessment of credibility—and the revictimization that would result. Loschen. the proposed maximum rate of error for a technique to be accepted as valid is 0. for example. 2004. Wagenaar. By the same token. the more difficult it is for the individual to narrate with sufficient detail. from the results obtained in this study. where the dispersion of points on the graph was observed to be greater for statements given by participants assuming the perspective of false protagonist than for those assuming the actual perspective (see Figure 1). Landau & Zukowsky. vol. in part. Thus. The problem is that. there is an 60% chance of a false positive. 2007)—we are adamant that there is a need for research in this field with the group of persons who have greater difficulty giving their testimony. for distinguishing between true and false statements. in a population of persons with severe ID or with a specific syndrome involving language disorders..3% chance of accuracy. Kebbell & Wagstaff. they tend to be even less likely than the population without ID to include important details of the event (Dent. the statements were not very rich. Let us remember that. & First. false statements. 1993). If the criteria that enable us to distinguish between true and false statements are the amount of detail and the length of the statement—the first also being especially important in evaluating a testimony as ―true‖—what happens with all those individuals who have limited vocabulary. the results obtained would be applicable only to those statements originating from an actual memory and to false statements generated from information about an event presented schematically. phenomenologically. however. the more severe the disability. These results. we can conclude that the above-mentioned technique is also not valid for distinguishing between statements given by actual and simulated victims with ID.75% of the statements correctly. along with a system of analysis that would enable all indicators to be taken into account in making a decision. and the witness’s abilities. & Isaacs. semantic and autobiographical memory deficits (without which they cannot satisfactorily reproduce conversations). 1994). to situate an event in a context. In any case. It would be advisable to conduct further research with different events and different types of fabrication so that the results could be generalized. 31. Limitations of the Study Although the individuals available to us for the sample were persons with mild and moderate ID—the deficit seen in 80% and 10%. Given the bias that may condi- . et al. in light of our results. there were two (amount of detail and length) that were significant for discriminating between the two types of statements and. this difference in the results could be accounted for by differences between the two studies in terms of not only the participants but also the events—for an actual event was used for the present study. 1997. 1999. 1986. testimonies given by persons with more severe ID should be analyzed on the basis of these criteria because we understand that. Rassin. regardless of their origin. such as those arising from false memories or those originating in the imagination. In future research studies. Research on persons with ID would have to be expanded to include other types of statements. anales de psicología. are contrary to those found in the previous research mentioned in the introduction. in some cases. it is difficult to take 15 criteria into consideration simultaneously—and. Manzanero et al. on the whole. could be of some help in distinguishing the origin of the statements. for as the cluster analysis of all criteria shows. however. which would mean fewer criteria. in contrast to this one. from various sources of information and are developed to create something new. however. the two types of statements could be distinguished with a 94. the temptation would be to use only these two criteria for an objective analysis of credibility and to discard the remaining criteria. but a filmed event and a different type of fabrication was used for the study with participants who did not have ID. 2015. which was conducted with developmentally normal persons (Manzanero. 2011. Conclusions As noted in the introduction. in any case. In conclusion. Then again. therefore. and to reproduce conversations. The lack of effect on most of the criteria would be due to an enormous variability and.4% (Manzanero & Muñoz. Discarding the 13 non-significant criteria does not seem appropriate either.342 Antonio L. in designing the supportive procedures required to obtain a valid testimony. At any rate. This approach. even beyond that. using only the two criteria shown to be significant in the study. of persons with ID (Fletcher. & Crombag. Stavrakaki. Ericson. as well as the irrelevance of RM procedure criteria. we would still be able to distinguish 68. respectively. are never entirely fabricated but originate. perhaps the credibility criteria that prove to be significant for distinguishing between true and false statements would be different. Of the 15 criteria analyzed.. Thus. should be discarded. 2003). however. even with sound decision-making ability. in forensic psychology. to the floor effect for. Likewise. because whether these two criteria are present most likely depends on a great variety of factors. or difficulty situating events in a given context? The majority of persons with ID have trouble relating a vivid event in rich detail. Perlman. even though they vary widely.

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