By week four or six or ten, about half of the kids say, "Yes, it happened." Many give such precise information that you'd think it must have happened.
RESEARCHER: Did it hurt?
RESEARCHER: Yeah? Who took you to the hospital?
BOY: My daddy, my mommy, my brother.
RESEARCHER: Where in your house is the mousetrap?
BOY: It's down in the basement.
RESEARCHER: What is it next to in the basement?
BOY: It's next to the firewood.
By the time I met that boy, weeks after the experiment was over, he still "remembered" convincing details about things that never happened.
STOSSEL: Was there a time when you got your finger caught in a mousetrap and had to go to the hospital?
STOSSEL: Who went with you to the hospital?
BOY: My mom and my dad and my brother Colin, but not the baby. He was in my mom's tummy.
What he told me was even more remarkable because just a few days before, his father discussed the experiment with him, explained that it was just a test, and that the mousetrap event never happened. The boy agreed—it was just in his imagination.
But when he talked to me, the boy denied the conversation with his father, and insisted the mousetrap story was true.
STOSSEL: Did your father tell you something about the mousetrap finger story?
STOSSEL: Is it true? Did it really happen?
BOY: It wasn't a story. It really happened.
STOSSEL: This really happened? You really got your finger caught? This really happened?
Why would the boy lie to me? I said to Professor Ceci that I assumed he wasn't intentionally making up the story. Ceci said, "I think they've come to believe it. It is part of their belief system."
Some molestation "experts" thought they'd come closer to the truth by giving kids anatomically correct dolls. With dolls, the social workers wouldn't have to ask so many questions. They could just say, "Imagine you are the doll; what did the teacher touch?" Lawyers argued that kids "wouldn't make up" what had been done to the doll. But Ceci's colleague Dr. Maggie Bruck conducted tests that showed that they would.
Bruck had a pediatrician add some extra steps to his routine physical examination. He measured the child's wrists with a ribbon, he put a little label on the child's stomach, and he tickled the child's foot with a stick. Never did the doctor go anywhere near the child's private parts. Then, a few days after the exam, using an anatomically correct doll, Bruck and the child's father asked leading questions about the doctor's exam. We caught it on tape.
FATHER: So what did he do?
GIRL: He put a stick in my vagina.
FATHER: He put a stick in your vagina?
[Then the girl claimed the doctor hammered the stick into her vagina. And she said the doctor examined her rectum.]
DR. BRUCK: He was where?
GIRL: In my hiney.
None of it was true. But when dolls were used, half the kids who'd never had their private parts touched claimed the doctor touched them. The tests made Dr. Bruck question her prior faith in the testimony of children. She told me she thinks dozens of innocent people are in jail.
Dr. Ceci told me their leading questions were mild compared to what the investigators asked: "What we do . . . doesn't come close, for example, to what was done in the Kelly Michaels case."