Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Jacqueline Evans

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Melissa Baralt

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Deborah Goldfarb

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Ronald Fisher

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Nadja Schreiber Compo

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


cognitive interview, witness, memory, non-native English speakers

Date of Defense



The cognitive interview is a widely recommended forensic interviewing strategy which elicits more details than comparison interviews. However, little research has attended to which of its component mnemonics drive the overall effect. Furthermore, some mnemonics—like asking witnesses to recall in reverse order—are cognitively demanding. Responding to cognitively demanding interview mnemonics may be challenging for witnesses who are already under heavy cognitive load, such as non-native English speakers. Speaking a second language is a cognitively difficult task that may leave non-native English speakers with limited cognitive resources to devote to complex interviewing mnemonics. Other mnemonics, though, may be particularly beneficial for non-native English speakers. For example, a transfer of control instruction, emphasizing that the witness has critical knowledge the interviewer needs to know, may help non-native English speakers overcome social barriers to reporting details in forensic interviews. The present study tests the effectiveness of the reverse order mnemonic and the transfer of control instruction compared to control interviews among native and non-native English speakers. Native speakers (N = 64) and non-native English speakers (N = vii 34) watched a mock crime video, completed a language history questionnaire, and were interviewed about the crime video using either a control (free recall + second recall attempt), reverse order (free recall + reverse order recall attempt), or transfer of control (instruction + free recall) protocol. Native English speakers provided more correct units than non-native English speakers, especially in the control condition’s second recall attempt (compared to the reverse order recall attempt). The transfer of control instruction had no effect on number of correct units provided in the first recall attempt of each condition. Accuracy rates were unaffected by language or interview condition, but non-native English speakers, particularly in the transfer of control condition, provided somewhat higher proportions of subjective details than native English speakers. These results suggest that non-native English speakers provide fewer details than native English speakers when interviewed in English, and the two mnemonics tested have little influence on speakers’ output. Future research should develop an interviewing protocol that is sensitive to the challenges faced by non-native speakers.






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