The cognitive interview (CI) was developed for use by law-enforcement investigators as an alternative to forensic hypnosis. It is currently in use by most major police agencies in the USA and the UK. The CI recently passed a Kelly-Frye challenge in California. This commentary is in response to the cautions raised by Memon and Stevenage (1996).
2. Memon and Stevenage's (1996) focus on the absolute number of errors rather than the error rate is somewhat puzzling. As an investigator, would one rather have an interview with 10 correct facts and one error or 100 correct facts and 10 errors? As the authors note, the answer is partially a function of the investigator's needs, but to take this notion to an extreme, one could certainly minimize the absolute number of errors simply by stopping the interviewee after the first utterance! Furthermore, a simple criterion shift explanation for CI cannot account for the numerous studies showing no increase in errors with CI, most of which were not conducted by Geiselman or Fisher (see Geiselman & Fisher, in press, for a review). A simple motivational effect also has been ruled out (see, for example, the Discussion section from one of the early works - Geiselman et al., 1985).
3. Memon's sometimes non-replications are difficult to interpret, especially given that in one study, the interviews were only 6 minutes in length (Memon et al., 1993) and in other studies her interviewers asked more questions in the CI condition (see the target article). If the interviewers ask more questions, then they obviously are not carrying out the revised CI protocol where the interviewee does most of the talking from open-ended questions (Fisher & Geiselman, 1992). There have been a few early studies where CI interviewers asked more questions, but this has been rare. Memon's choice of control interview procedures also is puzzling given that the control interviewers are taught to use elements of the revised CI! It is not surprising, then, that she would have some difficulty finding a reliable effect of CI. Contrary to Memon's claim, the success of individual elements of CI has been confirmed in experiments (Boon & Noon, 1994; Geiselman et al., 1986b).
4. I, like Memon and Stevenage, see that analysis of errors sometimes generated with CI to be an opportunity to further perfect the CI procedures and to revise them for special situations, groups, and needs (Geiselman & Fisher, in press). Too often, however, forensic psychologists have highlighted problem areas but fail to attempt to fix the problem. Two notable exceptions are the works of Gary Wells on identification procedures (Wells, 1988) and Karen Saywitz on techniques for maximizing the completeness of children's narrative reports and circumventing the suggestibility of children (see Saywitz & Geiselman, in press). In reading the target article, I noted that Memon alludes to her current work on the effects of CI with preschoolers. I, and others, have already cautioned that the current version of CI should not be used with young children under the age of seven (Geiselman & Padilla, 1988; Geiselman, Saywitz & Bornstein, 1993; McCauley & Fisher, 1995; Saywitz & Geiselman, in press; Saywitz, Geiselman & Bornstein, 1992). It would appear from our data that very young children are incapable of cognitively carrying out the current elements of CI. It is my hope, therefore, that the anticipated outcome of the new work will be a modified version of CI for use with preschoolers. That would be very useful, if possible. For a compendium of suggested techniques to maximize completeness and minimize errors with older children, see Saywitz and Geiselman (in press).
5. In sum, after 15 years of work, I see the future as very bright for CI. Aside from its influence on investigative interviewing within law enforcement agencies such as the US Secret Service and the US Postal Inspector's Office, CI has been found to be effective in epidemiological interviews and historical interviews as well (Fisher, McCauley & Geiselman, 1994; Geiselman, in press). Even the UK police have adopted CI! A recent survey by Koehnken, Davies, Yuille, and Read (personal communication, February 25, 1996) showed 23 or 25 training facilities in the UK to have an average of 7 hours of training on CI. Likewise, CI is required, standard training with the California Peace Officers Standards and Training Bureau.
Boon, J. & Noon, E. (1994). Changing perspectives in cognitive interviewing. Psychology, Crime, & Law, 1, 59-69.
Fisher, R.P. & Geiselman, R.E. (1992). Memory enhancing techniques for investigative interviewing. Springfield, Ill: Charles Thomas Publishers.
Fisher, R.P., McCauley, M.R. & Geiselman, R.E. (1994). Improving eyewitness testimony with the cognitive interview. In D. Ross, J.D. Read, & M. Toglia (Eds.), Adult eyewitness testimony and current trends and developments. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Frye v U.S. 293 f. 1013 (1923).
Geiselman, R.E. (in press). The cognitive interview: A promising tool for obtaining oral histories. In H. Judson (Ed.), Interviews in writing the history of recent science -- The Stanford conference. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Geiselman, R.E. & Fisher, R.P. (1996). Ten years of cognitive interviewing. In. D.G. Payne & F.G. Conrad (Eds.), A synthesis of basic and applied approaches to human memory. New York: Lawrence Earlbaum.
Geiselman, R.E., Fisher, R.P., Cohen, G., Holland, H.L. & Surtes, L. (1986a). Eyewitness responses to leading and misleading questions under the cognitive interview. Journal of Police Science and Administration, 14, 31-39.
Geiselman, R.E., Fisher, R.P., MacKinnon, D.P. & Holland, H.L. (1986b). Enhancement of eyewitness memory with the cognitive interview. American Journal of Psychology, 99, 385-401.
Geiselman, R.E., Fisher, R.P., MacKinnon, D.P. & Holland, H.L. (1985). Eyewitness memory enhancement in the police interview: Cognitive retrieval mnemonics versus hypnosis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 401-412.
Geiselman, R.E. & Padilla, J. (1988). Interviewing child witnesses with the cognitive interview. Journal of Police Science and Administration, 16, 236-242.
Geiselman, R.E., Saywitz, K. & Bornstein, G.K. (1993). Cognitive questioning techniques for child victims and witnesses of crime. In G. Goodman & B. Bottoms (Eds.), Understanding and improving children's testimony. New York: Guilford. (pp. 71-94)
Lindsay, D.S. & Read, J.D. (1994). Psychotherapy and memories of childhood sexual abuse: A cognitive perspective. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 8, 281-338.
McCauley, M.R. & Fisher, R.P. (1995). Facilitating children's eye- witness recall with the revised cognitive interview. Journal of Applied Psycholoqgy, 80, 510-516.
Memon, A., Cronin, O., Eaves, R. & Bull, R. (1993). The cognitive interview an child witnesses. In G.M. Stephenson & Clark (Eds.), Children, evidence, and procedure. Issues in criminological and legal psychology. No. 20. British Psychological Society, Leicester, UK.
Memon, A. & Stevenage, S. (1996). Interviewing Witnesses: What Works and What Doesn't? PSYCOLOQUY 7(6) witness-memory.1.memon.
Milne, R., Bull, R., Koehnken, G. & Memon, A. (1994). The cognitive interview and suggestibility. DCLP Fourth Annual Conference, Occasional Paper No. 22: Criminal Behavior: Perceptions, Attributions, and Rationality.
Saywitz, K.J. & Geiselman, R.E. (in press). Interviewing the child witness: Maximizing completeness and minimizing error. In S. Lynn (Ed.), Truth and Memory. New York: Guilford.
Saywitz, K.J., Geiselman, R.E. & Bornstein, G.K. (1992). Effects of cognitive interviewing and practice on children's recall performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77, 744-756.
Wells, G.L. (1988). Eyewitness identification: A systems handbook. Toronto: Carswell.