Instructional style is engaging and highly effective.
Last month, we reviewed the steps of the Free Format Interview. As promised, we would now like to turn to a more complex interviewing technique – The Cognitive Interview. This is very helpful in eliciting more detailed information from people involved in high profile cases.
The Cognitive Interview was developed after investigators were challenged in court for using forensic hypnosis due to issues pertaining to suggestibility. Forensic Hypnosis does not pass the “Frye Test” as established by case law. As an alternative, psychologists created the Cognitive Interview as a Memory Enhancement Tool for investigative interviewing.
Let’s review the steps. Just as with the Free Format Interview, begin with a professional opening, establish rapport, and advise the subject that you wish to conduct a “special” type of interview. Remind them that you will be there with them for quite a while so that you can conduct a thorough interview. This case is important to you and you want to obtain as much detail as possible.
Step 1: Ensure completeness/privacy
• Request that they tell you everything, no matter how minor
• Advise them that they may mention anything that comes to mind, even if out of context or chronological order
• Ensure complete privacy throughout the interview
• Ask the subject to face a blank wall (or close their eyes) as this will help them recall specifics about the incident
Step 2: Reconstruct all aspects of the scene “mentally”
• Use below-listed questions to help them visualize who, what, where, when, why and how:
ￚ Time of day, day of week
ￚ General location, environment
ￚ Specific location, distances
ￚ Lighting, weather conditions
ￚ Visual impairments (glasses, shrubs, etc.)
ￚ Activity, thoughts before, during and after the event
ￚ Sounds, odors, emotions felt
Step 3: Conduct a Free-Format interview
• Narrative Statement – listen and watch as subject tells their entire “story”
• First Paraphrase – paraphrase subject’s narrative statement, fill in holes
• Who-What-Where-When-Why- How – prepared/new questions, details
• Second Paraphrase – review the statement and make corrections as necessary
NOTE: Refer to the TDC Tip article on Free-Format Interview for further information.
Step 4: Reverse order
• Have subject recall his/her statement in reverse chronological order
o This may assist the subject in recalling additional details he/she otherwise may not remember
o The truthful subject will most likely cooperate with this request, while the deceptive subject will most likely show some resistance
Step 5: Change perspective
• Have the witness mentally put themselves in the shoes of someone else, or put themselves in a different area of the scene and tell you what happened
o For example: If the witness was standing at the front of the convenience store during an armed robbery, ask them to place themselves at the rear of the store and to tell you what they would have seen from that perspective.
– This may help them recall new details about the incident such as: a better physical or clothing description of the suspect’s back; accomplices and associated vehicles waiting outside the store; or potential witnesses that may yield follow-up information
So when might an investigator opt to use the Cognitive Interview technique instead of the simpler (and shorter) Free Format Interview? The Cognitive Interview would be a good choice if your subject is having difficulty remembering details of the incident because they were traumatized or intoxicated at the time or the investigation is high profile in nature. Remember that this technique requires considerably more time, so be sure to allow for that and be patient.
Instructional style is engaging and highly effective.
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Effective teaching teams! The presentation of the material was consistently interesting, and intelligent without being too intellectualized.
I highly recommend this training for any Probation staff who have the necessity to interview/interrogate individuals for investigation purposes.
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This training provided the useful tools necessary for assessing the veracity of a suspected child abuser, which goes a long way in helping to protect children.
This was, by far and away the best training I have received in 15 plus years of Law Enforcement. The instructors are experienced, engaging, articulate, and very entertaining. I will be recommending this training to multiple agencies.
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This training by far has been the most informative and most effective I've attended. The instructors engaged the students in a manner that made me want to speak my opinion, ask questions, and participate.
This was, by far, one of the most useful training classes I've attended since becoming an investigator.
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Your training gave me the confidence and tools to interview the suspect for over 5 hours and to bring a closure to the case.