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Effects of Children's Age and Delay on Recall in a Cognitive or Structured Interview

NCJ Number
Psychology Crime & Law Volume: 9 Issue: 1 Dated: 2003 Pages: 97-107
Lucy Akehurst; Rebecca Milne; Gunter Kohnken
Date Published
This study examined whether the enhanced cognitive interview (ECI) technique assisted in recalling events witnessed by children, whether a delay between the witnessed event and interview impaired the effectiveness of the ECI, whether the child's age had an effect on the ECI's effectiveness, and the types of event recall influenced by the ECI.
The cognitive interview (CI) technique was developed by Geiselman and Fisher to enhance both the quantity and quality of information elicited from witnesses and victims of crime. The original CI consisted of the following four types of cognitive instruction for interviewers to use where appropriate: instruction to reconstruct mentally the context of the witnessed event, instruction to report everything remembered without any editing, instruction to recall the event in a variety of temporal orders or to make retrieval attempts from different starting points, and instruction to recall information from another perspective (for example, that of another witness at the scene). Fisher and Geiselman later refined the technique considerably under the name of Enhanced Cognitive Interview. The ECI includes techniques such as rapport building and personalizing the interview, transfer of control of the interview to the interviewee, witness compatible questioning, imagery, and structuring of the interview process. The ECI was found to elicit approximately 45 percent more correct information compared to the original CI. In testing the ECI with child witnesses, the current study used a convenience sample of 64 school children, with half being between the ages of 8 and 9 years old and half being between the ages of 11 and 12 years old. The sample was shown a video recording of a staged shoplifting. Half of the children were interviewed 4 hours after viewing the video, and half were interviewed 6 days after viewing the video. Children were interviewed individually about what they had observed in the video, using either the ECI or a structured interview (SI). Those interviewed with the ECI method recalled significantly more correct details, especially regarding the actions portrayed in the video, with no increase in the reporting of erroneous information. The ECI was found to be a reliable interviewing technique regardless of age and delay between the event witnessed and the interview. 2 tables, 39 references, and appended outline of the phases of cognitive and structured interviews