The cognitive interview is a technique used during police interviews and aims to elicit as much information as possible from the eye witness by using four components.
  • CONTEXT REINSTATEMENT - mentally recalling the context of the event. For example, recall the scene, the weather, what you were wearing and what you were thinking and feeling.
  • REPORT EVERYTHING - report every detail you can remember even if it seems trivial.
  • RECALL FROM CHANGED PERSPECTIVE - describe the event as it would have been seen from different viewpoints, not just your own.
  • RECALL IN REVERSE ORDER - report the event in several different orders, moving backwards and forwards in time.

Research into The Cognitive Interview

  • Fisher et al - tested the validity of the cognitive interview.
They used a group of police officers and trained half of them to use the cognitive interview (cognitive group) and let half of them use normal interviewing techniques (control group).
Both groups carried out two different interviews with the same person. In the second interview, the cognitive group used the cognitive interview.
In the second interview the cognitive group obtained 47% more facts relating to the event whereas there was no increase in the control group.
  • Koehnken et al - found that the cognitive interview recalled more incorrect information than the normal interview.
  • Geiselman et al- participants watched a video of a crime being committed.
Participants were then interviewed using either a standard, cognitive or hypnosis interview.
Participants in the cognitive interview group reported more information.


  • Fisher et al’s study -
  • Weakness - the control group may have been less motivated because they received no extra training.
  • General -
  • Strength - very successful in increasing the amount of information about crimes that can be obtained from eye witnesses.
  • Weakness – other factors such as individual differences may have affected how much information was recalled.
  • Weakness - recall from changed¬†perspective¬†- may mislead witnesses into thinking that they are being asked to speculate on the event they witnessed.
  • Weakness - it is less effective at enhancing recall when used at longer intervals of time after the event.
  • Weakness - the cognitive interview contains several components and it is unclear as to whether all the components contribute to the success of the technique.