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

By Lawrence W. Daly, MSc

The cognitive interviewing model was seen as the most interviewing tool to reach the law enforcement officials in the 1980’s. Thoroughly researched and studied to prove its usefulness, law enforcement began utilizing this model to interview witnesses, then child sexual abuse victims, then sexual offenders. The determination of where the model would be most useful was unknown to the law enforcement community until research had been conducted in the field and laboratory.

Law enforcement found that if they trained their personnel in utilizing the cognitive interview model there was a 43% increase in the information which they obtained during general interviews. The model was seen as an interview tool which was way ahead of all other interview tools which were currently being utilized at that time.

Since interviewing is seen in the law enforcement community as complex, the cognitive interview model was like a breath of fresh air. The reason interviewing is seen as complex is the scientific community has suggested that memory for an event is believed to be stored as a series of coded representations whereby what is stored in memory is not an exact replica of the ‘to be remembered’ (TBR) event itself but a multiplicity of interconnected codes that preserve the experience (Bower, 1967).

One of the other reasons for an increase in information is the instruction by the law enforcement official explaining that “report everything” instruction aims to lower a witnesses’ subjective criterion for reporting information. The goal is allowing the witness to tell additional information about the TBR even if the information is partial. If the information is partial then it provides the law enforcement official the opportunity to further explore the partial disclosure.

The law enforcement official does not care or evaluate at the time of the partial disclosure where the information fits into the TBR. The key for the official is to get the witness talking and telling everything that was occurring at the time of the incident. If the witness opens up about what happened, the establishment that a crime did or did not occur will assist the official in making a determination in what the next investigative step needs to be.

Prioritizing the investigative steps comes about when the witnesses involved in the incident provide enough information which would allow the investigator to pursue the information and begin creating investigative alternative hypotheses. The law enforcement official must obtain a direction from the initial information he/she receives from the witness. The official will need to ask the right questions in order for the witness to provide the information which is relevant and material.

The law enforcement official must be concerned that the witness believes that the official knows more about the incident than the official is leading on. This is where the official must explain to the witness to have the clear understanding that the officials knows nothing about what happened i.e. the sexual assault, before, during and after the sexual assault occurred; not leaving any of the details out. This admonishment to the witness by the official provides a significant safeguard that the witness clearly understands the instructions.

The cognitive interview model suggests that the law enforcement official instructions to the witness is for the witness to begin from the end of the incident and move forward from that point. Researchers Anderson and Pichert, 1978, created this technique. Anderson and Pichert believed that if the witness could put themselves in the shoes of the witnesses i.e. the perpetrator, the witness, looking from a different perspective than his, would be able to provide additional information.

The key issues surrounding the cognitive interview model is the ability to mentally reconstruct the physical and personal contexts that existed at the time of the witnessed event. This is based upon the assumption that context reinstatement increases the accessibility of stored information.

The role of the law enforcement official is to enquire from the witnesses what exactly the witness has to offer. If the official can determine where the witness was at the time  of the child sexual assault, then the official can ask questions of the witnesses which provide the information he/she is looking for. At the end of the initial interview, the official will have an understanding of what knowledge and facts the witness has and which memories the official can attempt to retrieve.

In 1984 when Geiselman and Fisher created the cognitive interview model, they had to demonstrate to law enforcement officials that their program would be accepted by law enforcement officials as a replacement to what they were currently utilizing. The current interview tools they were using was inept and counterproductive bringing in little information. As stated above the cognitive interview model brought in over 40+% in their interviews.

In 1987 and 1992, Geiselman and Fisher expanded the usefulness of the cognitive interview model, where compared to the old interview protocols against the old interview models reached at least 45% additional information. Later Geiselman and Fisher created the Enhanced Cognitive Interview Model.

Tomorrow, we will complete this series by examining and evaluating the Enhanced Cognitive Interview model. The key to the success of utilizing the Enhanced Cognitive Interview Model will be clearly seen and you will conclude that the use of this model should be advocated by the law enforcement community.

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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