Outline & evaluate the cognitive interview. (12 marks)
The cognitive interview was devised by psychologists in order to eliminate the effects of misleading questions and misleading information. The process consists of first reporting everything the witness can remember, even information they believe to be unimportant. Then the witness is asked to mentally instate their experience, where they mentally use their sense to recall information. After this the witness is asked to change the order in which they recall the event, for example going backwards, and finally the witness is asked to change the perspective from which they recall the data, telling the officer the situation from above or as an onlooker. Fisher and Geiselman found that reporting everything and mental reinstatement check for consistency of the eyewitness report, and changing the order and perspective helps to create a different route to recall, increasing the amount of information.
The cognitive interview has strong supporting research; Kohnken et al for example, reviewed research into eyewitness testimony and found that the cognitive interview increased the amount of correct information recalled by 48%, compared to the standard interview. Also, Stein & Memon found that the cognitive interview is effective because people remember more when given cues. They made Brazilian female cleaners watch a video of an abduction, and then used the cognitive interview & standard interview to gain eyewitness reports, finding those who were in the cognitive interview condition not only recalled more, but were accurate in the information recalled. Despite this, this research can be criticised for lacking mundane realism. Previous research has found that arousal (anxiety) affects recall of eyewitness testimony, so by using videos the participants are not emotionally involved, therefore these results lack ecological validity and are not easily generalised. The research may also have researcher bias, as the experimenter wants to find the cognitive interview more effective, so may be giving greater clues when interviewing participants in this condition, affecting the reliability of these results.
However, when the cognitive interview is used in real life, there are many
weaknesses. The major disadvantage of the cognitive interview is that detectives only receive four hours of training, therefore are not well enough prepared to use the technique properly. The process is now turned into more than one procedure, which means that it becomes time-consuming. Due to this many police officers do not use all of the stages of the cognitive interview, reducing its effectiveness. This was shown by Kebbell and Wagstaff, who found that in real life police use the strategy, but limit the amount of information collected to only what they feel is necessary. This neglects the purpose of the interview, as it does not help with consistency of the eyewitness account. Overall, the cognitive interview could possibly improve on the standard interview if used correctly.