The tool, developed by a team led by the University of Abertay Dundee, combats natural memory decay by using the latest cognitive psychology techniques.
Witnesses use a self-administered interview (SAI) to 'freeze' images and details of crime scenes and perpetrators in their minds, particularly small and seemingly insignificant details that often turn out to be crucial in solving cases.
Tests at simulated crimes scenes showed that witnesses using the tool reported 42% more information that was forensically relevant and accurate than other witnesses who were simply asked to 'report as much as you can remember'.
The tests also revealed that witnesses using SAI recorded 44% more personal details about other people - ie, possible suspects - who had been involved in the event.
In another test, researchers waited seven days after an event before asking witnesses to provide a full account. Half of the witnesses had completed SAIs just after the event, while the others had given only their names and contact details. A week later, those who had completed the SAI were still reporting almost 30 per cent more correct details than those who had not.
The SAI protocol tool has been developed by Dr Fiona Gabbert from the University of Abertay Dundee, supported by Dr Lorraine Hope (University of Portsmouth) and Professor Ronald Fisher (Florida International University), supported by a £55,622 grant from the British Academy.
Dr Gabbert’s team worked with police forces in Scotland and England to develop the witness ‘recall and report’ tool to record memories at the earliest possible opportunity - at the scene of the incident.
Dr Gabbert said the completeness and accuracy of eyewitness evidence decreases over time: the longer the gap between witnessing an event and fully recalling it under formal interview conditions, the less accurate and less complete a witness report is likely to be.
"Decades of research in cognitive psychology demonstrate that memory decay, or forgetting, occurs rapidly at first. In a witnessing situation, this ‘forgetting’ will occur naturally and within hours of the incident. As the delay between witnessing and formal interview increases to days, memory decay will level off. However, by that time, many useful and forensically relevant details or clues may be lost forever," she said.
Dr Gabbert said the SAI tool could play a significant role for law enforcement as the benefits were obvious - witnesses have the opportunity to record their memories before any potentially crucial information is forgotten.
"The forensic implications of these findings for current police practice are considerable. At present witnesses are likely to engage in a very brief initial interview prior to giving a full statement at some later date. This very brief initial interview may actually have a detrimental effect on the ability of a witness to fully recall the incident at a later occasion. In other words, only the memory for the brief outline is strengthened - not the memory for the details, which can sometimes become harder to recall as a result," Dr Gabbert said.
"Research has proven, however, that recalling an event before any substantial forgetting or memory loss has taken place means that the way the event is represented in memory is strengthened, making it easier to recall in future. In this way, an early recall attempt serves to protect or ‘freeze’ the memory against the course of natural forgetting."
Dr Gabbert said using the techniques of the cognitive interview, and providing instructions to think carefully about the witnessing environment and report everything no matter how insignificant without resorting to guesswork, the SAI supports the witness in both the recall and reporting of as much information as possible before that information has been lost.
Kevin Coe | alfa
Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US
01.12.2016 | Dartmouth College
Sustainable Development Goals lead to lower population growth
30.11.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy