September 6, 2016
A central claim that Stephen Ceci made about his research in 1993 was that his laboratory experiments involving child suggestibility “paled in comparison” to what happened in the Kelly Michaels case. If he admitted that what he did in the laboratory was actually much more repetitive and suggestive than the Michaels interviews, then the applicability of his research to the Michaels case would be questionable.
My book proves that the experiments he described were far more suggestive and repetitive than the investigative interviews in the Michaels case (see Cheit, 2014, pp. 274-275). Ceci’s experiment involved telling children week after week, for ten weeks, that something had happened to them. A minority of those children appeared to accept the suggestion after ten weeks. But no child in Kelly Michaels was interviewed that much or that way. So the claim that his laboratory experiments “pale” in comparison to the Michaels case is demonstrably false.
In an upcoming Special Issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Staller (forthcoming) expresses the concern that my quote from Ceci might be inaccurate. The exchange, which could not be clearer, is digitized below:
Ceci has also claimed that he almost never appears in cases, that he has never been paid, and he testified under oath that when he appeared in the Finje case, he was “listed by both sides.” That is not true. He was a defense witness in Finje. The prosecution challenged the relevance of his work and subjected him to a rigorous cross-examination and days of deposition. And he was paid in the case, but the money went to his lab, meaning that his research has been funded by the defense. This news story demonstrates that Ceci was a defense witness whose work was seen as irrelevant by the prosecution.