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Interviewing Victims and Witnesses of Crime

NCJ Number
R E Geiselman; R P Fisher
Date Published
4 pages
The research summarized devised witness interview methods based on current memory theory to enhance the completeness and accuracy of eyewitness reports and to test these methods under controlled, realistic circumstances.
Designed to increase the number of retrieval cues that tap the witness' stored memory, the retrieval techniques (1) had the witness reconstruct the circumstances, report everything, and recall the events in different order and from varying perspectives, (2) suggested that the witness recall physical appearances, names, numbers, speech characteristics, and conversation. Techniques were tested by having college students recall a simulated classroom incident, with some students being instructed in the developed techniques and others being asked simply to recall as much information as possible. Another experiment compared the effectiveness of the interview techniques, hypnosis interviews, and traditional police interview techniques in helping a sample of college students recall events in a film of simulated violent crimes. Using 51 paid volunteers, the experiment was repeated without the hypnosis interview. Two other experiments examined (1) the effect of the interview techniques on subsequent answers to misleading questions and (2) the effect on recall accuracy and completeness of eliminating one or more of the interview techniques. In all the experiments, results showed that using the full battery of interview techniques increased the amount of correct information without increasing the proportion of incorrect information generated. Tabular data and 11 references.