Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Deborah Goldfarb

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Jacqueline Evans

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Amy Hyman Gregory

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Timothy Hayes

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


conversational memory, witness interview, interviewer memory

Date of Defense



As witness interviews are rarely recorded in the U.S., interviewers’ memory for these conversations is critical. In the present study, three types of memory were analyzed: what was said during the interview (content), who said it (source), and what questions were used to elicit information (question). Although content is the driving force in investigations, and research reveals that interviewers primarily recall the gist of the interview, source and question information are diagnostic of content accuracy. Individuals can misattribute interviewer information to the witness, making information seem more reliable than it was, and although yes/no questions are the least likely to elicit accurate information, they are the most commonly used questions in interviews (Evans & Fisher, 2011; Schreiber Compo et al., 2012). Furthermore, this study aimed to improve source and question memory by providing directed-focus instructions, which have been shown to improve recall (Crawley et al., 2010; Tatler & Tatler, 2013).

Aiming to measure and improve interviewer memory for witness interviews, this study examined the effects of directed-focus instructions on interviewers’ memory for content, source, and questions. After receiving directed-focus instructions to focus on source, questions, both, or neither (baseline group), participants interviewed a mock witness. They later recalled the interview in both a free-recall and cued-recall format.

Interviewers had worse memory for questions than for content and source, irrespective of directions specifically to recall them, suggesting we are right to worry about losing diagnostic information. Furthermore, the cued-recall format significantly decreased omission rates for all information types, but also resulted in a larger increase in incorrect than correct information. In other words, the new information that was gained via the use of a cued-recall format, compared to a free-recall format, was largely inaccurate, suggesting we should be careful using cued-recall questions in situations such as cross-examination. Finally, in line with research on acquainting interviews (e.g., Stafford & Daley, 1984; Stafford et al., 1987), interviewers showed better memory for information provided by the witness than for information they, themselves, provided, suggesting that it might go against the nature of an information-gathering interview for the interviewer to focus on their own contributions.





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Psychology Commons



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