By Anna Sukhikh and Livy Ewing, 6.1
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic the various talks and conferences A Level Psychology students typically would have the opportunity to attend has been limited. However, on Thursday we were fortunate to meet Detective Constable Samantha Hockley in our Psychology lesson for a talk on the cognitive interview, a questioning technique used by the police to enhance retrieval of information about a crime scene from the eyewitnesses and victim’s memory.
Samantha has been working in the police force for 19 years, and as a detective for eight. As a detective, the cognitive interview plays a big role in her everyday life. The cognitive interview is a procedure used by police when interviewing witnesses and victims of crime and is one of the techniques of eyewitness testimony that we learnt about in class. The cognitive interview was developed by Geiselman in 1985, who found that the standard police interview could negatively interfere with eyewitness recall. This technique was further researched by Fischer in 1990, who found that witnesses gave accounts in greater detail when detectives were trained to use the cognitive interview. Sam herself has had much success with this method, including helping to prove a stalker guilty, resulting in a 10-year sentence.
Sam highlights the importance of making the interviewee feel comfortable. She does this by finding common ground and making herself seem approachable, saying that she likes to appear maternal to the witness/victim. This was slightly surprising to us as we have been conditioned to believe that detectives are often hostile. Upon further discussion, we realised there is a significant importance to making the witness/victim feel comfortable as it can reduce high anxiety, which may negatively impact accurate recall.
Sam also points out it can be difficult to avoid leading questions, although sometimes it is necessary, because she does not want to place false information into the victim’s head, which could later be used against them in court. This was a really interesting experience for us as a class, as we were able to hear about how the cognitive interview is used in practice and the experience from the side of the interviewer.