Interviewing Crime Eyewitnesses & Minimizing False Memories

The existing research on the subject proves that eyewitness testimony could not be as reliable as expected. The problem with the testimony mostly relates to the idea that the advent of false memories could be rather harmful, as innocent bystanders could suffer from one’s testimony. Investigators often lead their witnesses to create their own false memories when sharing certain cues with them or asking them to think about some missing details that they have not mentioned yet.

Accordingly, the increasing amount of bias could become unbearable in the case where photos of suspects are shown to eyewitnesses, since the latter could recall an innocent person instead of the actual perpetrator. This happens due to the memory disruption and its increased vulnerability to improper reconsolidation after provocative questions that often make people remember they have never seen in their life.

In order to avoid any biased or incorrect information coming from eyewitnesses, the given police detective should ask for a detailed description of the wrongdoer, as pictures of the suspect would most likely trigger incorrect memories. After obtaining the verbal descriptions, the detective would compare them to the existing pictures.

As for the crime scene or the event itself, the eyewitness should be asked whether they could remember anything without adding any details out of uncertainty. The ultimate measure would be to apply open-ended questions without forcing the eyewitness into a certain answer. There should be a notice given out to the eyewitness that only real and not made-up answers are acceptable. Accordingly, the strategies presented above would be most likely to prevent potential eyewitnesses from exploiting false memories.

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