Stimulated recall: a report on its use in naturalistic research


School of Psychology and Sport Sciences, Northumbria University, Room 143A, Northumberland Building, Ellison Terrace, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 8ST, UK; e-mail:


Abstract Stimulated recall (SR) is a family of introspective research procedures through which cognitive processes can be investigated by inviting subjects to recall, when prompted by a video sequence, their concurrent thinking during that event. Variations of the generic approach are widely used and many of the studies treat SR as non-problematic. The article reviews the strengths and weaknesses of SR and exemplifies its use in a study of non-deliberative decision-making by sports coaches. The study reaffirms the potential limitations of subjects reordering their accounts in response to activating deeper memory structures and in order to maintain biases of control and a priori theory affirmation. Nevertheless, the procedure successfully elicited expert accounts of decisions taken and maintained the benefits of the naturalistic context. The article concludes that SR is a valuable tool for investigating cognitive processes, although care has to be taken with research designs. The value is enhanced when there is immediacy of recall, consonance between questions and cognitive organisation, and indirect means of introspection in complex interactive contexts, such as the classroom. It has considerable potential in both research and as the basis of training programmes.