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Memory of Uncooperative Witnesses

Conference contribution
Authors Alejandra De La Fuente Vilar
R Horselenberg
Leif Strömwall
Sara Landström
L Hope
P J van Koppen
Published in Pitch presentation during the 2017 conference of the European Association of Psychology and Law in Mechelen, Belgium
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Uncooperative witnesses, Eyewitness Memory, Investigative Interviewing
Subject categories Psychology


Introduction Despite the importance of their testimony, witnesses rarely provide sufficient information (Kebbell & Milne, 1998). However, witnesses’ reports are not necessarily a representation of memory. In fact, lack of reporting does not equal to lack of memory. But, there is no empirical evidence on whether memory is protected if it is not reported. This will be the first study to examine whether level of cooperation during an investigative interview affects memory for the target event. Specifically, we aim to learn whether memory traces are conserved when witnesses are uncooperative. Method During an in-person session, all participants will watch a mock-crime video clip and serve as eyewitnesses. They will be randomly assigned to only one of four interviewing conditions: control, enhanced cooperative style and two uncooperative style groups. Participants in the uncooperative groups will be told that the police believe they also participated in the crime. It is expected that participants to avoid self-incrimination will be less cooperative than those who are independent witnesses. Further, those in the enhanced cooperative condition will receive an extra incentive to facilitate disclosure. After a week, only one of the uncooperative groups will be debriefed. All groups will be interviewed again. Memory performance will be measured in both interviews. Results A literature review regarding memory for the unsaid (i.e., what is remembered and not disclosed) shows mixed results. Lack of disclosure of information can be accompanied, or not, by remembering. Thus, not reporting may lead to forgetting, but also to memory facilitation (Stone, Coman, Brown, Koppel & Hirst, 2012). As this is an exploratory study, no directional hypotheses are formulated. Preliminary data will be presented during the conference. Discussion Learning about how interview cooperation style affects memory and how this can be best recalled at a later stage is of particular relevance.

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