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- Memory and Suggestibility in the Forensic Interview
- Memory and Suggestibility in the Forensic Interview : Mitchell L. Eisen :
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The aim of this article is to enable any reader, researchers and practitioners alike, to become cognizant of key topics in the field of investigative interviewing. This is a sizeable and complex research field, spanning laboratory research evaluating the cognitive and social components of memory performance under different encoding and retrieval conditions, through to more applied work examining the performance of specific interview techniques and the detailed analysis of archival data.
The task of the interviewer in forensic settings is a challenging one and hinges on the ability of the interviewer to elicit a comprehensive and accurate account. General overviews of research and practice in investigative interviewing provide the context for the remainder of the article, which examines witness and suspect interviews separately, highlighting the specific challenges associated with interviews in each category.
Deliberately, and reflecting the large body of relevant literature, special attention is devoted to investigative interviews with children and other vulnerable individuals. Extending the usual reach of articles on investigative interviewing, the challenges faced by interviewers in intelligence settings are also examined, as too are the needs of individuals in particular interview contexts, such as refugees and asylum seekers. A consistent theme throughout the article emphasizes the need for high quality training, reflection, and evaluation to ensure ethical and effective interviewing in forensic settings.
In the conduct of both suspect and witness interviews, the task for interviewers is to elicit a comprehensive, accurate, and investigation-relevant account. As such, the basic currency of interviews in forensic settings is memory output.
Memory and Suggestibility in the Forensic Interview
Skilled interviewing demands a sound understanding of memory processes and, critically, some knowledge of the many cognitive, social, and environmental factors that may affect the content and accuracy of a witness or suspect account. Toglia, et al. Bookending eyewitness memory topics, Christianson , an examination of offender memory for violent events, extends to consider the credibility of such accounts and the validity of claims of crime-related amnesia.
While some factors affecting witness and suspect statements are present at the encoding or witnessing phase, others are more closely associated with the postevent phase—including the interview context. Loftus highlights the fallibility of human memory, while studies of suggestibility, such as the classic demonstration Zaragoza and Lane , highlight the dangers of suggestion in the interview context.
Memory and Suggestibility in the Forensic Interview : Mitchell L. Eisen :
This research, including the many studies published since on the topic of suggestibility, illustrates the risks inherent at the interface between the interviewer and the interviewee in the forensic setting. In both witness and suspect interviewing contexts, it is imperative the interviewer understands the potential for suggestibility and takes care not to contaminate the account he or she is seeking to elicit. Pansky, et al. Although still in the early stages, understanding the way in which interviewees strategically regulate their accounts is likely to lead to the development of new techniques and approaches within investigative interviewing in the future.
Brainerd, C. Edited by K. London and S. Developmental Review DOI: Available online for purchase or by subscription. Christianson, S.
Chichester, UK: Wiley. An important and interesting text concerned with memory issues observed among perpetrators of crime. Includes a useful consideration of the theoretical accounts of memory performance in the context of violent crime and an exploration of the ways in which perpetrator memories might be evaluated to detect the authenticity of crime-related amnesia and malingering.
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