Amina Memon (1996) The Importance of Time and Training for Cognitive Interviewers. Psycoloquy: 7(18) Witness Memory (5)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 7(18): The Importance of Time and Training for Cognitive Interviewers

Reply to Kebbell & Wagstaff on Witness-Memory

Amina Memon
School of Human Development
University of Texas at Dallas
Box 830688 (GR 4.1)
Richardson, TX 75083-0688

Sarah V Stevenage
Department of Psychology
University of Southampton
Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ


In their commentary, Kebbell & Wagstaff (1996) raise several important issues concerning the use of the Cognitive Interview (CI) in forensic situations. Very often the use of the CI is compromised by either lack of time or lack of confidence on the part of the interviewing officer. We thank the commentators for raising these issues and discuss one way in which the use of continuing training can help make the CI a more useful tool for police and other practitioners.


Cognitive interview, errors, eyewitness memory, facilitated recall, police procedures, questioning, recovered memories, structured interview.
1. Kebbell & Wagstaff (1996) raise some interesting and important questions concerning the use of the CI in the forensic context (1996). We agree with what they have to say about the practical problems faced by officers who attempt to use the CI. Certainly, limitations imposed by lack of time and confidence to use all the mnemonic components of the CI can seriously impede the use and effectiveness of the technique. We concur with the suggestion that where resources are limited they should be directed towards police officers who deal with serious crimes.

2. Kebbell & Wagstaff raise the concern that even when Police interviewers are using the CI technique, their cognitive interviews may be quite different than that described by Fisher and Geiselman (1992). Instead, Kebbell & Wagstaff describe the use of interviews in which "deliberate strategies" are used, and, as Kebbell & Wagstaff describe them, these would appear to counter the CI aim of establishing rapport. In response to this concern we would underline the importance of training (see Memon et al., 1994). Furthermore, we would suggest that officers should be carefully selected for training. The CI is a complex procedure and in our experience some police officers use it more effectively than others (regardless of training). One reason field officers do not use the cognitive mnemonics after training is that they have not had sufficient opportunity to practice the techniques and get feedback on their use of the procedure. By providing feedback and monitoring we may be better able to understand the difficulties faced by Police interviewers and modify the CI procedure to make it easier, as described by Kebbell & Wagstaff. However, this will require time and resources on the part of police organisations.

3. Kebbell & Wagstaff ask us to consider carefully what constitutes a cognitive interview and its resemblance to other interviews including the structured interview. We feel that we have dealt with this point in our reply to the Geiselman commentary but concur with Kebbell & Wagstaff's suggestion that future researchers should be crystal clear about the techniques that are used by interviewers. As to the choice of control group, we have indicated in our paper (pars. 12 and 31) that this should be dictated by the purpose of the research.


Fisher, R.P. & Geiselman, R.E. (1992). Memory enhancing techniques for investigative interviewing: The Cognitive Interview. Springfield III: Charles C. Thomas.

Kebbell, M.R. & Wagstaff, G.F. (1996). Enhancing the Practicality of the Cognitive Interview in Forensic Situations. PSYCOLOQUY 7(6) witness-memory.3.kebbell.

Memon, A., Milne, R., Holley, A., Bull, R. & Koehnken, G. (1994). Towards understanding the effects of interviewer training in evaluating the cognitive interview. Applied Cognitive Psychology 8: 641-659.

Memon, A. & Stevenage, S. (1996). Interviewing Witnesses: What Works and What Doesn't? PSYCOLOQUY 7(6) witness-memory.1.memon.

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