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Psychological Evidence

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Psychological Evidence

When discussing finding and collecting psychological evidence at a crime scene, most people think about biological and physical evidence found on the crime scene or in the suspect's belongings, e.g. fingerprints, hair, a tooth, murder weapon, blood, CCTV footage, etc. However, many often forget about psychological evidence in crime, which can provide valuable information.

Psychological evidence in crime often relies on memory. The encoding specificity principle suggests cues enhance the retrieval of memory traces, especially if those cues are associated with the retrieved information. When interviewing suspects and victims, cues are often great for improving memory retrieval, but cues can influence a person's memory if the police interview is not conducted carefully.

The standard interview is a standard technique the police use, but the cognitive interview was developed as an alternative.

Psychological Evidence, man running away from policeman after stealing woman's purse, StudySmarterPsychological evidence helps reconstruct events, freepik.com/pch.vector

Definition and examples of psychological evidence

Psychological evidence includes the mental state of the suspect, their written and spoken accounts of what they believed happened, their testimonies, and any medical diagnoses or prescriptions they may have been given by credibly professionals.

Specifically, we can define psychological evidence as follows.

Psychological evidence is anything regarding the suspect's mental state that proves they committed the crime.

We briefly mentioned examples of psychological evidence above; here is an overview of examples of psychological evidence:

  • Testimonies
  • Reports
  • Written analysis
  • Diagnostics on psychological or psychiatric matters
  • Other fact witnesses
  • Medical prescription of the suspect for any psychological condition
  • Expert witnesses, e.g. psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor, therapist.

Types of evidence in psychology

Evidence can be biological and/or psychological.

Biological evidence involves analysing fingerprints, using DNA samples such as blood work and obtaining hair and skin cells, whereas psychological evidence involves the components mentioned above. The two main ways that psychological evidence can be obtained are through interrogations and interviews. There are distinct differences between interrogations and interviews.

Interrogations:

  • Accusatory
  • Used to obtain a confession that is admissible in court
  • Involve a monologue by the detective to encourage the suspect to only talk when they're ready to speak the truth.

Interviews:

  • Non-accusatory
  • Involve a dialogue consisting of questions and answers
  • A way to collect relevant information about the crime
  • Can evaluate suspects' truthfulness
  • Can evaluate the need for interrogation

Psychological evidence at a crime scene

By using interrogations and interviews, we can attain helpful evidence of the crime, for instance, what exactly happened at the crime scene, who was present, and what the suspect's role was, amongst other things.

Psychological evidence in court

Psychological evidence that can be used in court includes the testimony of a witness to the crime. Witnesses usually take the stand, but an audio/videotape can be submitted in special circumstances, or they can give testimony behind a screen, e.g. in the case of child witnesses. However, before the case is taken to trial, the police questions witnesses to understand what happened at the crime scene.

Examples of psychological evidence

As you will have covered in the Memory topic, Loftus and Palmer (1974) found eyewitness testimony isn't always accurate and can be altered by the interview itself, particularly by misleading questions. These questions insinuate an answer, leading to distorted the witnesses' memory.

The standard interview

The standard interview is an interview that doesn't require training (Brewer, 2000).

Interviewers can ask any questions they want if they feel it is relevant and will get them useful information.

Gudjonsson (1992) highlighted the four stages involved in a standard interview:

  1. Orientation

  2. Listening

  3. Questions/answers

  4. Advice

The cognitive interview was developed to address issues with the standard interview, namely leading questions, interruption issues, and event sequencing.

The cognitive Interview

Geiselman et al. (1992) developed the cognitive interview (CI) to overcome the disadvantages of the standard interview.

It takes many things into account, such as cue-dependent forgetting. The steps of the CI are:

1. Context reinstatement – the witness mentally puts themselves in the position they were in during the crime, imagining what it was like at the time and their internal state.

2. Narrative re-ordering the witness tries to recall the event in a different order from how it occurred (e.g. backwards), so that schemas don't alter what happened and form false memories.

3. Report everything – the witness reports everything they can remember in as much detail as possible. The smallest details can trigger important memories.

4. Recalling from different perspectives – the interviewer asks the witness to describe how the event would have looked from someone else's perspective, e.g. a different witness that was present, the victim, or the suspect.

Fisher et al. (1990) trained detectives from the Miami Police Department on using the CI to interview their potential suspects. Interviews were recorded with eyewitnesses and victims, and a further eyewitness confirmed or denied the statements procured in the interview.

They found that the CI had a 46% increase in recall and a 90% increase in accuracy, lending credence to the efficacy of the CI.

Later on, Fisher and Gieselman (1992) revised their CI to see if they could further improve it and found 45% improvements compared to the standard interview.

A review of the cognitive interview – Memon and Higham (1999)

Memon and Highman (1999) sought to critique the cognitive interview in their article, discussing four themes:

  1. Effectiveness of the components of the cognitive interview

  2. Isolating the effective components of the CI

  3. The enhanced CI

  4. Comparison interviews

Psychological Evidence, a detective interviewing a handcuffed suspect in a dark blue room, StudySmarterThe standard interview is a traditional technique used by police, freepik.com/pch.vector

1. Components of the cognitive interview

Memon and Higham (1999) highlight the frequently used components of the CI, including:

  • Mental reconstruction of the external and internal contexts during the crime – mental and physical states, including the presentation of the scene, emotions felt during the time, and all five senses (sight, sounds, smells, etc.) are discussed for effective retrieval of memories and implementation of cues.

  • Witnesses reporting everything they can remember without dismissing any information will yield additional recall of memories and aid in combining multiple witness statements to create an overall picture.

  • A recollection from different points of view, where witnesses effectively view the crime from a different person's perspective, using multiple retrievals cues to increase the detail of information – different perspectives can cause issues with the fabrication of information, however, and can cause some confusion (Memon and Koehnken, 1992). However, Milne (1997) found that perspective-shifting is not particularly effective in increasing recollection of information compared to other techniques in the CI.

  • A recollection from different starting points is used to aid retrieval and accuracy of memories (as well we determine the truthfulness of those being interviewed). Gieselman and Callot (1990) found recalling forwards once and then backwards once was more effective.

2. Isolating the effective components of the cognitive interview

The different components of the CI were tested separately so that the (most) effective one could be found.

  • Memon et al. (1996a) interviewed 5–8-year-old child participants acting as witnesses of a staged event using one of the 3 of the CI components: context reinstatement (CR), change perspective (CP), and change order (CO). The 4th was a control group and was simply told to 'try harder'. They found that across all four groups, no differences in recall performance.

  • They also replicate these results in a second experiment with 5–9-year-olds (Memon et al. 1996a Experiment 2). These findings suggest the CI is effective because witnesses, when prompted, have additional retrieval attempts, which elicit new details.

  • Milne (1997) tested adults with the full CI (all four components) and its separate components (CR, CP, CO, and report everything, RE). She found that out of the four components, there were no differences incorrect or incorrect details compared to the control condition. Overall, the full CI condition produced more recall than the separate components except for the context reinstatement condition. Context Reinstatement appears to be the most effective component of CI.

3. Enhanced cognitive interview (ECI)

The enhanced cognitive interview (ECI) combines the four CI components with additional strategies to improve the CI process further, as mentioned briefly above.

  • Transfer of control is used to build rapport, reduce interruptions, and encourage elaborate responses through open questions, and timing of questions to aid the retrieval of memories. This naturally facilitates each component of the CI; by building rapport, the witness is relaxed and open to further CI techniques.

  • They also mentioned how the components of the ECI: improved communication and improved retrieval of information, work in interaction with each other to get maximum effectiveness (McCauley and Fisher, 1995).

  • Several studies providing evidence for the efficacy of the memory enhancement technique 'imagery' are also listed and discussed in this review section. Forming a mental image probed by questions elicits more detail and better retrieval.

  • Imagery effects on information retrieval include reality monitoring and task demands, however, repeated requests to imagine pictures caused participants to create false reports (Johnson et al., 1979). When asking witnesses to create images, caution is advised.

4. Comparison interviews

The CI has been compared with the Standard Interview, the Guided Memory Interview, the Structured Interview (SI), and hypnosis. Hypnosis isn't focused on due to a lack of evidence that it is effective for improving recall.

Standard interview

Research often compares the CI to the Standard Interview. However, psychologists argue that this isn't an appropriate comparison because they are too different.

  • The CI requires proper training while the Standard Interview doesn't.

  • The Standard Interview can't control for individual differences of the interviewer, but since the CI has a standardised procedure, the issue doesn't apply.

The CI was developed as a replacement for the Standard Interview to be used by the authorities, and original research sought to prove that it was better than the Standard Interview. But now, since that has been established, it's no longer appropriate in future research to compare it to the Standard Interview when evaluating its effectiveness but to evaluate its components instead.

Memon and Higham proposed that although the Standard Interview was an appropriate tool for comparison in the early days of research into the CI, it is no longer applicable. They advise against using the Standard Interview to compare and evaluate the efficacy of the CI.

Guided memory interview (GMI)

The GMI uses the principles of context reinstatement and encourages the witness to reinstate contexts, so their memory is guided.

  • Malpass and Devine (1981) tested the effectiveness of the GMI and found that it was more effective in eyewitness identification (EWI) accuracy than simply prompting with lineup instructions.
  • However, while techniques of the GMI resemble the CR and imagery component of the recent CI, research has shown that the CI doesn't lead to increased accuracy in EWI. The GMI study by Malpass and Devine (1981) may be because they used detailed probing, which resulted in enhanced memory, which wasn't present in CI or other GMI studies, so they failed to find enhanced memory effects.
  • Another point mentioned was that if the event was recent, CR might not enhance memory that much, but if there's been a gap, then it will be useful in enhancing memory (Smith, 1988).

Therefore, the GMI may be a good comparison for the CI since they share the CR component. However, it may not be a good comparison because it doesn't include other important techniques of the enhanced CI that make it effective, e.g. building a good rapport with witnesses.

Structured interview (SI)

The SI encourages the interviewer to build a rapport with the witness, give them time to respond and give them the chance to give narrative descriptions. It's expansive, non-interrupting, and confidence-building and uses good questioning techniques, e.g., open questions, actively listening, and suitable non-verbal behaviour.

  • Koehnken et al. (1994) first compared the SI to the CI.

  • Memon et al. (1997b) suggest that both the CI and SI produce effective results with proper training.

The main difference between SI and CI is the cognitive techniques in CI, which suggests SI is good for determining the efficacy of the techniques in SI.

Different measures of the performance of memory and its effect on findings

In the majority of the studies, the performance of memory is measured by the number of interview statements that are correct or incorrect. However, one problem with this is that it doesn't account for the memory of the unreported information, which should be the aim when evaluating the effectiveness of any interview.

An example of this could be that when the interviewee is asked only to tell the truth, they may leave out information they aren't 100% sure about.

So, further research needs to be conducted to improve the interview's techniques and, therefore, increase the amount of reported information that could be useful.

Interviewer variables and training quality's effect on interview performance

A criticism of the early CI studies is that the quality and amount of time of training given to the interviewers weren't controlled, and they were receiving different amounts.

Differences in the interviewer's motivation, attitude and prior experience may play a significant role in what kind of results will be gained from the CI.

Therefore, Memon and Kelling suggested a few things for the training process:

  • Interviewers should be given proper training for techniques involved in CI. The recommendation would be a 2-day training programme.

  • Another way would be to focus on giving training for the CI to detectives who are already good interviewers and giving those that are bad interviewers other roles in police work, assuming that training the good ones will make them better.

Application: police interview strategies

A framework has been suggested for conducting interviews with witnesses.

P.E.A.C.E. interview framework

The P.E.A.C.E. interview framework stands for:

  • Plan and prepare – even as much as determining the aim(S) of the interview. Any potential barriers, e.g. language barriers, or a vulnerable witness, should be planned to be overcome.
  • Engage and explain – the interviewer should explain the purpose and process to the witness and build a rapport to put them at ease.
  • Account: classification and challenge – a full account of the event is obtained from the witness, without interruption, then there should be techniques used to re-attempt recalling the same or similar, relevant information.
  • Closure – end in a good way so the witness won't be opposed to another interview.
  • Evaluate – the information gathered should be evaluated to determine if it's enough or if there are any inconsistencies

Psychological Evidence - Key takeaways

  • Psychological evidence is anything regarding the suspect's mental state that proves they committed the crime. The main way to get psychological evidence is through interviewing.
  • The Standard Interview (SI) is a common technique the polices use when interviewing witnesses. Geiselman et al. (1992) developed the Cognitive Interview (CI) as an improved alternative to the SI.
  • CI is more effective than SI and uses four key components: context reinstatement, narrative re-ordering, reporting everything, and recollection from different perspectives.
  • Memon and Higham (1999) reviewed and evaluated many areas of the CI using four key themes: components of the cognitive interview, isolating the effective components of the CI, the enhanced CI, and comparison interviews.
  • An application of research is police interview strategies such as the PEACE Interview Framework, which includes: plan and prepare, engage and explain, account, closure, and evaluate.

Frequently Asked Questions about Psychological Evidence

Psychological evidence refers to anything regarding the suspect's mental state that proves they committed the crime.

Evidence is important because it helps build a case against the suspect and convict them of their crime. There can be different types of evidence: physical/biological evidence (DNA, fingerprints, blood) or psychological evidence (testimony, reports, written analysis, medical reports, fact witnesses, prescriptions, expert witnesses)

There are seven steps of the enhanced cognitive interview:

  1. Establish rapport with witness
  2. Report everything
  3. Context reinstatement
  4. Narrative re-ordering
  5. Asking questions that are important to find out information that hasn't been mentioned already.
  6. Close the interview in a positive way
  7. Evaluate the interview by listening or watching the recording

Distinct differences between interrogations and interviews exist.


Interrogations:

  • Accusatory
  • Used to obtain a confession that is admissible in court
  • Involve a monologue by the detective to encourage the suspect to only talk when they're ready to speak the truth.


Interviews:

  • Non-accusatory
  • Involve a dialogue consisting of questions and answers
  • A way to collect relevant information about the crime
  • Can evaluate suspects' truthfulness
  • Can evaluate the need for interrogation

Final Psychological Evidence Quiz

Question

Whats the definition of psychological evidence?

Show answer

Answer

Psychological evidence is anything regarding the suspect's mental state that proves they committed the crime.


Show question

Question

What are some examples of psychological evidence?

Show answer

Answer

Some examples of psychological evidence are: 

  • Testimony 
  • Reports 
  • Written analysis 
  • Diagnostics on psychological or psychiatric matters 
  • Other fact witnesses 
  • Medical prescription of suspect for any psychological condition
  • Expert witnesses, e.g. psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, therapist.

Show question

Question

What are the 7 steps of the enhanced cognitive interview?

Show answer

Answer

There are 7 steps of the enhanced cognitive interview:

  1. Establish Rapport with Witness
  2. Report Everything
  3. Context Reinstatement
  4. Narrative Re-Ordering
  5. Asking questions that are important to find out information that hasn't been mentioned already.
  6. Close the Interview in a Positive Way
  7. Evaluate the Interview by listening or watching the recording

Show question

Question

What are the 4 components of the cognitive interview?

Show answer

Answer

The CI has 4 components: Context Reinstatement, Report Everything, Narrative Re-Ordering, and Recalling from Different Perspectives. 

Show question

Question

Which four stages did Gudjonsson (1992) highlight as part of the standard interview?

Show answer

Answer

Gudjonsson (1992) highlighted the four stages involved in a standard interview:


  1. Orientation
  2. Listening
  3. Questions/answers
  4. Advice

Show question

Question

Who developed the cognitive interview and when?

Show answer

Answer

Geiselman et al. (1992) 

Show question

Question

What is the main advantage of the cognitive interview over the standard interview?

Show answer

Answer

It is more effective as it obtains more information from witnesses. 

Show question

Question

Which 4 themes did Memon and Higham (1999) review and evaluate studies of the CI on?

Show answer

Answer

Memon and Higham (1999) reviewed and evaluated many studies of the CI on 4 themes:

  1. The Effectiveness of the Cognitive Interview's Different Components.

  2. Comparing the Cognitive Interview with other Interview Methods.

  3. Different Measures of the Performance of Memory and its Effect on Findings.

  4. Interviewer Variables and Training Quality's Effect on Interview Performance. 

Show question

Question

What does PEACE stand for?

Show answer

Answer

  • Plan and Prepare

  • Engage and Explain

  • Account

  • Closure

  • Evaluate

Show question

Question

What is PEACE?

Show answer

Answer

It is a police interview strategy for conducting interviews with witnesses. 

Show question

Question

Other than the 3 steps, what else is added to the enhanced cognitive interview?

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Answer

It also has added social elements, such as allowing breaks/pauses, taking care of the witness' needs, and making sure there aren't any distractions. These things improve communication and therefore, lead to a better interview process. Memory enhancing techniques, e.g. imagery, are also used.

Show question

Question

What are the main characteristics of interrogations?

Show answer

Answer


  • Accusatory
  • Used to obtain a confession that is admissible in court.
  • Involve a monologue by the detective in order to encourage the suspect to only talk when they're ready to speak the truth.

Show question

Question

What are the main characteristics of interviews?

Show answer

Answer

  • Non-accusatory
  • Involves a dialogue consisting of questions and answers.
  • Is a way to collect relevant information about the crime.
  • Can evaluate the truthfulness of the suspect.
  • Can evaluate whether or not an interrogation is needed.

Show question

Question

What are the 9 steps of interrogation by Reid (1962)?

Show answer

Answer

1. Positive Confrontation 

2. Theme Development 

3. Handling Denials 

4. Overcoming Objections 

5. Procuring and Retaining the Suspect's Attention

6. Handling Passive Moods of the Suspect

7. Presenting Alternative Questions 

8. Get a Verbal Confession and Details of the Crime

9. Converting the Confession into a Written, Audio or Video Taped

Show question

Question

What are the 2 main ways that psychological evidence can be obtained?

Show answer

Answer

The 2 main ways that psychological evidence can be obtained are: Interrogations and Interviews

Show question

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