The efficacy of mnemonic components of the cognitive interview: towards a shortened variant for time-critical investigations


  • Research for this paper was conducted whilst the first author was at the School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University.


The cognitive interview utilizes mnemonic instructions and social facilitative techniques to increase correct recall from eyewitnesses without concomitant increases in errors. Recent studies however have suggested that police may neglect this technique in time-critical situations. The present study investigated mnemonic components to determine whether a shorter, but still effective, technique was possible. Forty-five participants viewed a film of a simulated crime and were interviewed with one of three techniques: the cognitive interview; a modified version that replaced the change order and change perspectives techniques with additional free recall attempts; or a structured interview. It was hypothesized that the modified technique would be as effective as the cognitive interview, while both would be superior to the structured interview. Results supported these hypotheses. Further analysis suggested that a shortened version, with the two mnemonics removed, may substantially reduce interviewing time while still offering an effective interview strategy in time-critical situations. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.