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Evaluation and Field Implementation of the Cognitive Interview

NCJ Number
R E Geiselman; R P Fisher
Date Published
75 pages
The research identified and developed interview methods based on dobnitive theory to maximize the completeness and accuracy of witness reports and to test these methods in laboratory and field settings.
The cognitive interview was previously shown to elicit about 25 to 35 percent more information than standard police interviews without generating more incorrect information. In the present research, the technique was found to be effective with children age 7 to 12 and to reduce the negative effects of inadvertently asking misleading questions of adults. The technique was further refined on the basis of a critical analysis of field interviews. The revised technique consists of four basic principles: memory-event similarity, focused retrieval, extensive retrieval, and witness-compatible questioning. A laboratory study showed the revised cognitive interview to elicit 45 percent more correct information than the original version. A field test on real-world cases showed the revised version to elicit 45 percent more information than standard interviews. Of information from the field study that could be assessed for accuracy, 94 percent was confirmed by an external source (physical evidence, other witnesses, confession). Results indicate that interview techniques can be improved through training, and that the cognitive interview reliably enhances the completeness of witness recollection. 22 references. (Author abstract modified)