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Interview Strategies of Eyewitness Testimony

InterviewStrategies of Eyewitness Testimony

Aneyewitness is a person who sees some act or occurrence that can givea firsthand account of it. The eyewitness testimony is a legal termthat refers to the situational description by a witness of whathappened during a crime or incident. Through both cognitive andmemory research, the testimony by the eyewitness can be influencedand be incorrect following some external factors like stress, outsideinterference like the misattribution of the reminiscence or aforemost questioning (Eisen, Quas, and Goodman, 2002). The legalprofessionals or jurors must consider the likelihood of unreliabilityto not pass a wrong verdict to an innocent individual. Such factorshave attributed the legal systems of various countries and stateswithin the United States to amend how the eyewitness testimony ispresented in the courtroom. The eyewitness testimony being aspecialized focus on the cognitive psychology various psychologistsin history have questioned the dependability of the eyewitnesstestimony from as an early as in the 20th century (Miller, n.d.).

Oneof the primary techniques used in the questioning the eyewitness isthe cognitive interview (CI) about what they may recall from a crimescene. The primary aim of the CI is to ensure that the eyewitnessesare familiar and aware of all the events that occurred during anincident using four retrievals (Miller, n.d.). The CI aids to reducethe chances of misinterpretation and improbability which is mostlycommon in the questioning process of the conventional police forceinterviews. The results that follow after the use of CI areincredible, enhance the procedure of memory retrieval and have seenthat they elicit memories without producing incorrect accounts. Thetechnique of cognitive interview has been widely adopted by thepolice departments, and other investigation bureaus and trainingprograms and manuals have been founded too (Rasmussen, Brouwer andDay, 2012).

Wheninterviewing the eyewitnesses the police have been trained in theprocesses that help the cooperating witnesses to recall as much aspossible because both the victims and eyewitnesses of a crime tend tohave poor memories due to the circumstances that they have beensubjected to. The traditional standard police technique of method mayencourage the free call but again is faced with some challenges likeinterruptions or ending an interview after believing that all therequired facts are collected (Miller, n.d.). Police around the worldshould not focus on training that is meant for the suspects but also,eyewitnesses to increase the chances of an event memory. The policemust adopt the perspective change instructions while questioning theeyewitnesses to activate other schemas impulsively that may berelated to the crime event (Rasmussen, Brouwer and Day, 2012).

Thecognitive interview strategies give the police officers a set ofguidance criteria. The given set of open end questions gives theeyewitness the chance to be broad in their answers. Unlike in theconventional procedures, the witnesses were forced to be specific,and that was biased. The CI results to the witnesses to give thefragmented details that at first seem irrelevant but aid in carryingthe investigation (Rasmussen, Brouwer and Day, 2012). This interviewprocesses sometimes exposes some vital information that was notpreviously recalled. The CI interviewers reduce the improbabilitythat is associated with the witnesses being anxious about the entireinterview process because they are not sure what is expected of them.They explain the witness centered nature of the interview andencourage the victims and eyewitnesses to ask any questions about theprocess (Eisen, Quas, and Goodman, 2002).


Eisen,M., Quas, J. and Goodman, G. (2002). Memoryand suggestibility in the forensic interview.Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Miller,K. (n.d.). Cognitiveinterviewing methodology.

Rasmussen,G., Brouwer, C. and Day, D. (2012). Evaluatingcognitive competences in interaction.Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co.