Techniques for Improving Eyewitness Testimony: the Cognitive Interview

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Techniques for Improving Eyewitness Testimony: The Cognitive Interview
An eyewitness is somebody who sees an act, occurrence or happening and can give a firsthand account of the event. The police often rely on such people to provide accurate recollections of these situations in order to aid in their investigations. Research has shown however, that eyewitness testimony can be inaccurate and unreliable. It is absolutely crucial that eyewitness testimony be as accurate as possible, as there have been as many as 225 innocent people falsely convicted of crimes due to mistaken eyewitness identification (Innocence Project, 2013). Techniques such as hypnosis, line-up construction or the cognitive interview have been employed in an attempt to
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Consequently, an eyewitness may falsely recall the events of a crime because they are reporting what their schema of a crime is, rather than what actually happened. It has also distinguished that the recall of information from memory is influenced by the strategies implemented to gain access to that information, but more on that shortly (Ornstein, Medlin, Stone & Naus, 1985).
The cognitive interview is based on four memory retrieval rules (known as mnemonics) and several supplementary techniques. Each of the retrieval rules were tested and were determined to be useful in the interview process (Geiselman, Fisher, MacKinnon & Holland, 1986).
The first rule involves the eyewitness mentally reinstating their own personal as well as the environmental contexts. The participant is asked to mentally revisit the event they are attempting to recall. The interviewer may ask them to mentally recreate the environment in which the event took place. This picture could include the positioning of buildings, other people, or even reporting what the weather was like. The interviewee is also asked to recall their own mental state (stressed, anxious, and scared) and then report these feelings in detail. This process increases the feature overlap between initial witnessing and future retrieval contexts (Memon & Bull, 1991).
The next rule is in-depth reporting. The interviewer encourages the eyewitness to report any and every detail they can, regardless of how insignificant

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