The Cognitive Interview

Answers to the 'Can you' questions on the interview technique. Pages 20-21 of 'Psychology AS' by Mike Cardwell and Clara Flanagan.

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The Cognitive Interview
1. The cognitive interview is a police technique for interviewing eyewitnesses to
crime, which encourages them to recreate the original context in order to
increase the accessibility of stored information.
2. The cognitive interview works through 4 parts: a) Report everything ­ all details
of the crime are reported even if they appear to be insignificant at the time of
interviewing b) Mental reinstatement of original context ­ the interviewer
encourages the interviewee to mentally recreate the environment and contacts
from the original incident c) Changing the order ­ where the interviewer tries
alternative ways through the timeline of events and d) Changing the perspective
­ the interviewee is asked to recall the incident from multiple perspectives e.g.
how it would have appeared to other witnesses.
3. Milne and Bull (2002) examined the relative effectiveness of each of the four
components to the CI. Undergraduate students and children were interviewed
using just one individual component of the CI, and compared to a control group
(who were told to `try again'). Recall across each of the four groups was broadly
similar, and no different to that of the control group. However, when interviewees
were interviewed using a combination of `report everything' and `mental
reinstatement', recall was significantly higher.
4. Problems with the cognitive interview are that not all police forces use all the
components and officers have suggested that the technique requires more time
than is sometimes available.
5. The cognitive interview is a useful tool to interview eyewitnesses because it
provides the police with more accurate information. It can also reduce the
incidence of miscarriages of justice in developing countries. However, it can be
time consuming and not all the components of it are used in actual police


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