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FBI Archives: Joseph Gorden Lahey Undercover Drug Operation Hypnosis Interview

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The cognitive interview (CI) is a method of interviewing in which eyewitnesses and victims report what they remember from a crime scene. Using four retrievals, the primary focus of the cognitive interview is to make witnesses and victims of a situation aware of all the events that transpired. The CI aids in minimizing misinterpretation together with uncertainty that is otherwise seen in the questioning process of a standard police interview. Cognitive interview reliably enhances the process of memory retrieval and has been found to elicit memories without generating inaccurate accounts of information or confabulations. Becoming increasingly popular with use in police investigations, training programs and a manual have been devised on how to properly conduct a cognitive interview.

Research involving adults and the use of the cognitive interview have found that there is a significant increase in correct recall of details using the CI than other types of interviews with fewer incorrect details supported.[20] In one successful study, witnesses were asked to draw a detailed sketch of what they witnessed while conversing, which proved to be as effective as asking witnesses to mentally reinstate context.[20] Moreover, the researchers found that witnesses produced fewer confabulations when sketch was used which led to the belief that the witness's used their own cues to help them remember rather than relying on the interviewer to direct them towards relevant cues.[20] Therefore, cognitive retrieval is effective in enhancing eyewitness memory retrieval in the police interview.[5] Moreover, according to Tulving and Thomson's encoding specificity principle, context reinstatement increases the availability of memory-stored information and studies have found the connection between the role played by the CI and this principle.[20] Another study sought out to compare the effectiveness of three interview procedures for optimizing witness memory performance. The cognitive interview, hypnosis interview and standard police interview were used. The results found that both cognitive and hypnosis interviews elicited significantly greater numbers of correct items of information than the standard police interview throughout all instances of the study.[5] The results of the cognitive interview closely replicate those obtained by Geiselman et al. (1984), in which participants were interviewed about a classroom intrusion using a structured questionnaire. Again, more correct items of information were generated with the cognitive interview than with the control interview, and without an increase in the number of incorrect items.[5] Thus, the cognitive interview is capable of enhancing eyewitness memory performance both under conditions of experimental control as well as under conditions of high ecological validity

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