University of Gothenburg

Memory and interviewing

Research on human memory has a long tradition. Although memory failures like forgetting can be bothersome in everyday life, in some situations incorrect memory information can be fatal. Within the legal arena, incorrect memory information could, at worst, lead to the imprisonment of innocent people. In addition, most criminal investigations are dependent on information from witnesses, victims and perpetrators. Thus, obtaining complete and accurate information is critical. CLIP’s work within this field has a long history, and our research can be divided into two main areas: one focusing on how to improve witnesses’ memory performance, and the other focusing on factors and situations that influences memory.

Areas of research

1. Memory-enhancing techniques

The research in this area focuses on methods to improve the memory performance of both adults and children; that is, how to increase the amount and accuracy of information remembered. For this purpose, different interview techniques (e.g., the Cognitive Interview) are studied. Another research focus concerns how victims of repeated domestic violence can be supported to give more detailed and specific (less general) statements about the abuse.

2.Witness' performance

Within this area, we investigate a broad range of factors that can influence witnesses’ performance, such as age, social influence, and alcohol intoxication. We hope to find answers to questions like: What can be expected of earwitnesses and eyewitnesses? What are the effects of co-witness discussion? What is the best way to interview a witness who was intoxicated during the event to be remembered?

  • Öhman, L., Eriksson, A & Granhag, P.A. (2011). Overhearing the planning of a crime: Do adults outperform children as earwitnesses? Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 26, 118-127.
  • Roos af Hjelmsäter, E., Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (2009). Was the stranger alone? On how different sources of social influence affect children's memory reports. Social Influence, 4, 155-169.
  • Leander, L., Granhag, P.A., Christianson, S.Å. (2009). Children's reports of a verbal sexual abuse: Effects of police officers’ interviewing style. Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, 16, 340-354.
  • Ost, J., Granhag, P.A., Udell, J., & Roos af Hjelmsäter, E. (2008). Familiarity breeds distortion: The effects of media exposure on false reports of real life traumatic events. Memory, 16, 76 – 85.
  • Granhag, P.A., Jonsson, A.-C., & Allwood, C.M. (2004). The Cognitive Interview and its effect on witnesses’confidence. Psychology, Crime & Law, 10, 37-52.
  • Fahsing, I.A., Ask, K., & Granhag, P.A. (2004). The man behind the mask: Accuracy and predictors of eyewitness offender descriptions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 722-729.