This was based
largely on the work of Elizabeth Loftus and other psychologists,
following their theoretical work into memory and EWT. Forensic
psychologists combined various ideas and designed a more effective way
of questioning witnesses that has been shown to produce more reliable
recall of events. Fisher and Geiselman (1992) designed the cognitive
The technique is
based around four main components:
Stages of the interview
Why they might work
everything: It encourages witnesses to report all detail that they can remember
regardless of how trivial it may appear
one and two are designed to reinstate context. They get the
witness to mentally revisit the scene and mentally reconstruct
the incident in their mind.
suggests that we are more likely to recall information if it is
in a similar context to when it was first experienced or
learned, so putting ourselves in a similar state of mind should
tries to recreate the scene of the incident in the mind of the
witness, this includes the sights, sounds and smells but also
crucially it attempts to model the emotions and feelings of the
person at the time. This is based on the concept of cue
reverse order: It
encourages witnesses to recall events in different orders, for
example starting half way through a sequence of events and then
three and four are based on the idea that once a memory has been
stored there is more than one way of getting at it or retrieving
route fails then try another. So if working through from start
to finish hasn’t worked try to accessing the memory by sneaking
up on it from a different angle e.g. backwards.
Recall from a
It encourages witnesses to view the scene as others present may
have seen it, for example as other witnesses, the victim or the
perpetrator may have seen the incident.
the cognitive interview
Geiselman et al
(1985) got participants to watch a video of a violent crime. A few days
later they were interviewed in one of 3 ways: standard police interview,
cognitive interview or under hypnosis. The cognitive interview was
found to trigger the most accurate recall.
Note: hypnosis is not as effective as
films would lead us to believe (the so-called Hollywood effect).
Witnesses often do recall more under hypnosis and are more confident in
their recall. Unfortunately much of what they recall is inaccurate.
Additionally, their confidence in what they recall can be very
influential in court room situations, particularly with jurors so is
Kohnken et al
(1999) carried out a meta-analysis of 53 other studies and found
that the CI could elicit an average of 34% more detail than the standard
interview and crucially without the loss of accuracy you get with
when the four components of the interview are used individually, e.g.
recall in a different order, there is little gain over the standard
interview. It’s only when two or more components are used that there is
significant improvement in recall. Milne and Bull (2002). The report
everything and context reinstatement combinations appear most
it is difficult to compare studies carried out in different countries
and even between different police forces within a country since there
are now so many variations on the CI. For example in the UK the
Merseyside force use pretty much the original Fisher and Geiselman
design whereas Thames Valley Police (Morse and Lewis no doubt) tend to
drop the ‘reinstating context.’
One criticism of
the technique is that it tends to be too time-consuming in practice.
seem to find the instructions confusing and as a result produce less
reliable recall than with standard police interviews. Geiselman (1999)
recommends that the CI is only used on children aged eight and over.
There is a
slightly modified version in which, for example, interviewers use ‘open’
rather than ‘closed’ or ‘leading questions’ and are encouraged to follow
the witnesses train of thought rather than get them to recall incidents
in chronological order.
enhanced cognitive interview method Miami Police (*Crockett and Tubbs no
doubt), reported an increase of 46% in amount of detail recalled by
witnesses, where corroborative evidence was available 90% of this
additional testimony was shown to be accurate.
and Tubbs are not researchers, so please do not use their names in
answers!!!! Anybody seen re-runs of “Miami Vice?”
Last page :-)