The Interviewer – Are Those Being Interviewed Telling The Truth Or Are They Lying? Part II

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

The cognitive interview model is one method and technique when interviewing child sexual abuse victims and witnesses which has proven to be effective. Law enforcement officials internationally and nationally use the cognitive interview model as their main interview model for first responders and detectives.

The creation of the cognitive interview model was developed in 1984 by researchers Ron Geiselman, Fisher and their colleagues in response to the ineffective police interviewing techniques used at that time and prior to 1984. 

Obtaining eyewitness testimony by law enforcement officials was a struggle. The accuracy, content and context of the information, evidence and facts obtained was lacking in all aspects. Therefore, Geiselman et al, wanted to find a way to change the information gathering process.

Geiselman et al, demonstrated that the cognitive interview had ecological validity by having participants watch videos of simulated violence and the information they obtained was tremendous compared to the other interview methods and techniques utilized by law enforcement officials.

As Geiselman learned the effectiveness of the cognitive interview, he and his associates expanded the usefulness of the methods and techniques. In 1987 Geiselman et al, revised the original cognitive interview by doing the following:

·         They incorporated the idea of structuring the interview to be more compatible with how the brain retrieves memories.
·         They were able to enhance the reliability of the law enforcement interviews of child sexual abuse victims and witnesses.
·         They were able to increase the completeness of a witness’s recollection, without increasing the number of incorrect or confabulated bits of information generated.
·         They were able to teach and instruct law enforcement officials without confusion and complicated instructions and applications.
·         They were able to teach and instruct law enforcement officials how to implement the methods and techniques of the cognitive interview during routine investigations.
·         They were able to increase the correct information retrieved by 45%.
·         They prepared and wrote training manuals for investigative services on how to conduct a cognitive interview.
·         They were able to demonstrate that the reason the cognitive interview model was effective, was because it utilized memory strategies. Since research has demonstrated that memory deteriorates over time, therefore they needed to utilize memory strategies. These considerations recognized that the larger amount of time which had elapsed between witnessing the crime and subsequently conducting the interview, needed interview methods and techniques which queues the memory.
·         They demonstrated that memory does have a limited storage capacity and memory is a reconstructive process.
·         They demonstrated that the reconstruction of human memory can be seen through the use of schemas; a memory blueprint.
·         They were able to identify that four memory retrieval rules known as mnemonics were of benefit in obtaining facts and information about the alleged crime.

The cognitive interview model over the years has been utilized not only by law enforcement officials, but attorneys and private investigators. The broadening of the scope of who uses the cognitive model demonstrates how effective it has become over the past 27 years.

Law enforcement officials continue to find the right formula(s) to teach their police officers on how to properly interview child sexual abuse victims and witnesses. The formula may have been developed by Geiselman et al, but some law enforcement officials have grown complacent and it was necessary to develop and implement a model which was effective and produced greater memories when interviewing child sexual abuse victims and witnesses.

It just isn’t the interview model the law enforcement official’s use, but the police officer who is willing to apply the model in any given situation. The proper policy is to use the 7 W’s that would be:

                    1.      What
2.      Where
3.      When
4.      Which
5.      Why
6.      Who
7.      How 

These seven words create the questions a law enforcement official will use, which will assist them in interviewing the child sexual abuse victim and witnesses. These seven words create the direction the law enforcement official needs to pursue, which will lead to another question and then another and then another.

The possibilities are endless as long as the law enforcement officials are properly trained and understand how to obtain the greater memory. Using the cognitive interview model has demonstrated that the strategy is simple to use and implement.

Understanding and knowing how the brain works and how to get the brain to kick the memory into gear is important in order for the interview to be successful. The law enforcement officials over a period of education, training and experience will implement the recommended four strategies. These four strategies are:
1.      Report everything -encourage interviewees to report every detail they can remember, even partial information.
2.      Reinstate Context - Before initiating a free report ask interviewees to think back to the original event and try and have an image of the video in their mind as they described it.
3.      Repeat Report everything instruction (prior to the questioning phase).
4.      Reinstate Context with image probing - ask interviewees to reinstate context before the questioning phase. Used context reinstatement to probe specific images i.e. "Think about what the car looked like. Can you get a picture of the car in your mind?" before asking specific questions (Geiselman, Fisher and et al.).

No matter what interview model law enforcement officials use to interview child sexual abuse victims and witnesses, there will always be quirks, negative outcomes and just plain old problems that are found by the interviewer. It is part of the learning and educational process, but in using the cognitive interview model there are more successes than problems.

Tomorrow, I will delve into some of these problem areas associated with the cognitive interview model, without degrading a great interview model which has now been in existence over the past 27 years. In breaking down the cognitive interview process, I believe you will find it interesting and something you may be able to utilize in your profession.

Forensic Child Sexual Abuse Investigations Part 1
 By: Lawrence W. Daly                                            
 Webinar Time- September 22, 2011 1:00 pm -2:00pm
 Registration Fee - $99.00                            

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