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Immediate or delayed recall: When is the best time to interview alcohol intoxicated eyewitnesses?

Conference contribution
Authors Angelica Hagsand
Emma Roos Af Hjelmsäter
Pär-Anders Granhag
Claudia Fahlke
Anna Söderpalm Gordh
Published in Oral presentation at The Nordic Network for Psychology and Law (NNPL), October 25-26 2013, Aarhus, Denmark
Publication year 2013
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Alcohol, eyewitnesses, memory, recall
Subject categories Cognitive science, Psychology, Applied Psychology


Introduction. Many violent crimes involve alcohol intoxicated eyewitnesses, but there are only a few studies on how alcohol affects eyewitness memory. Aim. The overall aim was to examine whether eyewitnesses, intoxicated as well as sober, recall more (and more accurate) information when interviewed immediately after witnessing a crime, compared to a delayed interview. Methods. The participants (N = 99) were randomly assigned to a 2 (Beverage: control vs. alcohol) x 2 (Recall trial: immediate and delayed vs. delayed only) mixed design. After a 15 minutes consumption time, a staged kidnapping on film was shown. Half of the participants (N = 48) were interviewed immediately and all (N = 100) had a one week delayed recall. Results. There was no difference between sober and intoxicated eyewitnesses in terms of amount of details, but intoxicated witnesses were less accurate. Eyewitnesses who had an immediate recall remembered significantly more and were more accurate at the delayed recall, than eyewitnesses who did not have an immediate recall. This regardless whether the eyewitnesses had consumed alcohol or not the week before. Conclusions. This study shows the importance of conducting an immediate interview, even when the witnesses are intoxicated with a low to moderate blood alcohol concentration.

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