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This study tested questions of ecological validity by comparing the eyewitness testimonies of children directly experiencing a painful inoculation experience with those of children in a yoked-control group who vicariously experienced the inoculation on videotape. The study involved 86 5-year-olds, divided between 2 groups: the experiential and yoked control. The experiential group was followed through a health department with a video camera as they received diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus (DFT), and oral polio inoculations. They were tested immediately, 20 min later, and I month later. Each child in the yoked-control group merely watched the videotape of his or her counterpart in the expenential group, made similar ratings of pain, and was given the same tests and suggestions. Stress and personal experience affected items congruent with the stressor to produce flashbulb-like memories, with slower rates of forgetting for some items, such as nurse identifications, and greater suggestibility for other items, such as estimates of needle size. These and the apparently conflicting results in the literature were said to make sense when personally experienced stress was viewed from S.-A. Christianson’s (1992) interactive perspective rather than as a single ubiquitous variable.


This is an electronic version of an article published in Marc A. Lindberg, Susan Jones, Lisa McComas Collard & Stuart W. Thomas (2001): Similarities and Differences in Eyewitness Testimonies of Children Who Directly Versus Vicariously Experience Stress, The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development, 162:3, 314-333. The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development is available online at: with the open URL of