Children’s Memory Research Group
 
Deborah Connolly, Ph.D, LL.B.
Associate Professor & Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies (CV)
The focus of my research is children’s autobiographical memory reports, particularly reports of repeated events. Children’s memory for repeated events is important both theoretically and practically and my research reflects both foci. Autobiographical memory is one of the first forms of memory to develop and continues to evolve throughout our lives. Often, when we think of autobiographical memory, we think about unique and exciting experiences. In fact, most of our autobiographical memory involves multiple experiences with familiar events. How this information is organized and what we can expect children to remember is a key theme for the Children’s Memory Lab.
 
The practical importance of understanding children’s memory for repeated events is particularly acute in the forensic context. Unfortunately, child abuse is often a repeated event. If a criminal investigation is initiated, the child will likely be asked to report details of a particular episode or a subset of episodes of abuse. Our research is meant to support the prosecution of such crimes without compromising the fundamental right of accused persons to be presumed innocent. We strive to understand better the strengths and weaknesses of children’s memory for particular episodes from a series of similar episodes. We are similarly concerned with the perceived credibility of such reports. In legal settings, actual truth is not known, it is presumed from assessments of the believability of the allegation and the complainant, among other things.    
 
Recently, in criminal jurisdictions throughout the Common-law world there has been a dramatic increase in prosecutions involving child sexual abuse that is alleged to have occurred in the very distant past. This presents tremendous legal challenges that we are studying, primarily, through analyses of legal decisions.  
Jesse Elterman, M.A., Graduate Student
Jesse Elterman is a 3rd year PhD student in the clinical-forensic psychology program at SFU. His research interests are in children’s involvement in the legal system. For his MA, he studied the role of race in perceptions of child credibility. For his PhD, he is examining whether children have the cognitive ability to malinger head injuries.
Jennifer Lucyk, B.A., Graduate Student
Jennifer Lucyk is a M.A. Candidate in the experimental Law and Psychology program at Simon Fraser University. She completed her B.A. (Honours) in Psychology at King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario in London, ON, in 2007, under the supervision of Dr. Laura Melnyk. She joined the Connolly Lab in 2007. Her research interests centre on children’s memory and suggestibility, the effects of stereotypes of child sexual abuse (CSA) on judicial decision making, and the accuracy of witnesses’ person descriptions of strangers. Her MA thesis examines the influence of event frequency and training on children’s accurate responding and ability to retract initial false reports. Her research is supported by an AP-LS Grant-in-Aid.
Emily Slinger, B.A., Graduate Student
Emily Slinger is a M.A. candidate in the experimental Law and Psychology program. She completed her BA (Honours) in Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON in 2008. Emily’s research interests include children’s memory organization for repeated events, the effects of child sexual abuse (CSA) stereotypes on judicial decision making, and indices of social influence in mock juror deliberations. Her thesis applies a reaction time (RT) approach to the conceptualization of children’s natural memory organization for details of a repeatedly experienced event.  Her research is supported by the CGS Master’s fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
 
Current Graduate Students
Former Graduate Students
Heather Price, Ph.D
Heather Price is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Regina. After completing her Ph.D. with Dr. Connolly, she undertook concurrent postdoctoral fellowships with Dr. Peter Ornstein at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and with Dr. Kim Roberts at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her broad area of interest is in children as victims and witnesses. Specifically, she examines children’s memory for instances of repeated and stressful events, and investigative interviewing of children.
Tristin Wayte, Ph.D
Dr. Tristin Wayte completed her PhD in the experimental stream of Law and Forensic Psychology in 2006. Her main area of research is child and adolescent mental health law, and her dissertation focused on comprehension of rights under the Mental Health Act.  After graduation, she moved into her current role as Evaluation Consultant for BC Mental Health and Addiction Services, under the Provincial Health Services Authority.  She uses her research background to develop and implement projects that monitor clinical and program outcomes expected from treatment protocols, from programs and policies across Riverview, Children’s and Forensic Psychiatric Hospitals. The results of these projects are then looped back to the clinical and administrative teams in an effort to improve the quality of patient care.   
 
Heidi Gordon, Ph.D.
Heidi completed her PhD in April of 2009. Her dissertation explored the influence of directed forgetting on children's autobiographical memory in an attempt to examine children's omissions, or failures to report details of an event.  Heidi is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto studying children's moral development with Dr. Kang Lee.  She continues to investigate omissions in the context of children's lie-telling behaviour and secret-keeping.
 
Jennifer Lavoie, M.A.
Jennifer A. A. Lavoie is a Ph.D. candidate in the experimental stream of the Law and Psychology Program at Simon Fraser University. She attended Carleton University in Ottawa, ON, where she completed her BA (Hons) in Psychology in 2001 under the supervision of Dr. Timothy Pychyl. Jen joined Dr. Deborah Connolly’s lab in the fall of 2001 to begin a graduate program of research examining children, memory and deception. Jen completed her M.A. in Law and Psychology at SFU in 2004. Her Master’s thesis, entitled The Efficacy of Criterion-Based Content Analysis and Reality Monitoring in Discriminating between Reports of Single, Repeated and Fabricated Events, investigated the capacity of two techniques in classifying the veracity of children’s statements. Her dissertation work explores the role of situational stress and coping in predicting multiple adverse outcomes (e.g., violence, victimization) among mentally disordered persons living in the community. As well as lecturing at Laurier University, Brantford, Ontario, Jen has held a position as a research officer with BC Mental Health and Addiction Services. She currently works as a research consultant for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Former Honours Students
Sara Cox
Sara is in her 5th year at SFU working on an honours in Psychology and a minor in Gerontology.  She completed her honours research in Dr. Connolly’s lab. Her thesis focused on memory for repeated events in an adult population. Specifically, she investigated memory for deviations and the recency and primacy effect using a series of children’s stories.  Right now, she is finishing up the last few courses for her minor and applying for graduate school.  
Melissa Northcott, B.A.
Melissa worked with Dr. Connolly as a research assistant from 2003 until 2007, helping with several different studies testing children’s memories for repeated events. She conducted a directed studies project with Dr. Connolly focusing on the credibility of victims of historical child sexual abuse. She was also co-supervised by Dr. Connolly on her Honours thesis, which focused on the effects of stereotypes on juror decision making in child sexual abuse trials. Melissa is currently completing her MA at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.
Current Research Assistants
Cait Walker
Angelina Yiu
Soyun Jun