Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Advisor's Name
First Advisor's Committee Title
Second Advisor's Name
Second Advisor's Committee Title
Third Advisor's Name
Amy Hyman Gregory
Third Advisor's Committee Title
Fourth Advisor's Name
Fourth Advisor's Committee Title
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.
Wolfs, Andrea CF, "Analyzing and Improving Investigative Interviewers’ Memory for Content, Source, and Questions" (2021). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4831.
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