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Eyewitness Responses to Leading and Misleading Questions under the Cognitive Interview

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Science and Administration Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: (1986) Pages: 31-39
R E Geiselman; R P Fisher; G Cohen; H Holland; L Surtes
Date Published
9 pages
Three experiments were conducted to identify and develop interview methods based on current memory theory to enhance the completeness and accuracy of eyewitness reports in police investigations.
The first experiment involved 42 undergraduate students recruited from introductory psychology classes at the University of California, Los Angeles. The students were not informed in advance that their memory of a staged incident would be tested. Instead, they volunteered to participate in an experiment to improve their memory. Cognitive interviews did not enhance leading or misleading question effects. The second experiment involved 39 undergraduate students, 20 in the cognitive interview condition and 19 in the standard interview condition. With leading information inserted, about 59 percent of the students reported correct information; with misleading information inserted, only 33 percent of the students recalled correct information. The purpose of the third experiment was to replciate the results of the first experiment using the methodology from the second experiment using 66 undergraduate students. Subjects who received cognitive interviews were significantly less affected by leading or misleading questions. In general, cognitive interviews did not increase the probability that subjects would report information inserted by the interviewer in previous questions, thus supporting the reliability and usefulness of the cognitive interview technique. 22 references and 3 tables