Cognitive Interviews

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  • Created by: izzy
  • Created on: 10-06-13 10:21

Because of the importance of EWT within the legal system and the serious repercussions when it goes wrong, cognitive psychologists have tried to develop methods for improving the accuracy of EWT. One suggestion is to improve the ways in which witnesses are questioned by police. Fisher et al. (1987) studied real interviews by experienced detective officers in Florida over a four-month period. They found that witnesses were frequently bombarded with a series of brief, direct and close-ended questions aimed to elicit facts. However, the sequencing of these questioned often seemed out of sync with the witnesses' own mental representation of the event. Witnesses were often interrupted and not allowed to talk freely about their experiences. Fisher felt that these interruptions were unhelpful because they broke the concentration of the witness and also encouraged shorter answers with less detail.

On the basis of research such as this, Geiselman et al. (1985) developed the cognitive interview technique as a more effective tool for police investigators. They identified 4 principles they believed would enhance accurate recall:

  • Context Reinstatement (CR)
    • Mentally reinstate the context of the target event. Recall the scene, the weather, what you were thinking and feeling at the time, the preceding events, etc.
  • Report Everything (RE)
    • Report every detail you can recall even if it seems trivial.
  • Recall in Reverse Order (RO)
    • Report the episode in several different temporal orders moving backwards and forwards in time.
  • Recall from Change Perspective (CP)
    • Try to describe the episode as it would have been seen from different viewpoints, not just your own.

These techniques are all designed to enhance retrieval of the original memory. Although this kinds of detail might seen trivial and poorly related to the actual witnessed event, it is designed to provide extra cues that might help to jog the witnesses' memory for more central details. Subsequent research led to a…


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