aqa  Improving the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, including the use of the cognitive interview

The Cognitive Interview

This interview technique is based on four instructions:

  1. To recreate the context of the original incidentIt tries to recreate the scene of the incident in the mind of the witness, this includes the sights, sounds and smells but also crucially it attempts to model the emotions and feelings of the person at the time. [space=10]
  2. Report every detail – It encourages witnesses to report all detail that they can remember regardless of how trivial it may appear.[space=10]
  3. Recall the event in different orders – start with aspect of scene which seems most memorable and work backwards or forwards from that point.[space=10]
  4. To change perspectivesIt encourages witnesses to view the scene as others present may have seen it, for example as other witnesses, the victim or the perpetrator may have seen the incident.


  •      Research Support: There have been a number of studies that have investigated the effectiveness of the cognitive interview, Bekerian and Dennett (1993) reviewed 27 studies and found in all cases cognitive interview provided most accurate info.
  •       Real Life Application: Recent research by Holliday (2003) has shown that a modified cognitive interview is useful in interviewing children.

Research into the Cognitive Interview – Geiselman


They showed police training videos of violent crimes to a group of 89 students. About 48 hours later American law enforcement officers interviewed the students. The interviewers had either been trained in standard police interviewing techniques or in the new cognitive interview.


The students recalled far more in the cognitive interview than in the standard, although error rates were similar.


Could be criticised for artificiality as they watched videotapes.


Extension Resources