Obtaining accurate, detailed accounts from people who have witnessed crimes is essential to help police solve those crimes – but limited resources pose a challenge to interviewing eyewitnesses soon enough while their memories are still fresh.
Dr Rob Nash, along with Dr Kate Houston from University of Texas at El Paso, and Surrey colleagues Kate Ryan and Nigel Woodger, have conducted research to examine for the first time whether the use of video-mediated interviews can help address this problem.
Dr Nash explains:
“Because police investigators have limited time and resources, people who witness crimes often have to wait several days or weeks before they can be interviewed about what they remember. We proposed that a modern solution to this delay problem might be for some interviews to be conducted via video-link, rather than face-to-face – we therefore asked how well witnesses might perform in these remote kinds of interviews. In our study, we showed 77 participants a short crime film, and later we interviewed them about what they remembered. These interviews happened either the next day later via video-link, the next day face-to-face, or 1-2 weeks later face-to-face. We found that witnesses remembered and reported similar amounts of information whether they were interviewed face-to-face or by video-link. But people gave more complete and more accurate accounts when interviewed by video-link after a short delay, than when they waited longer for a face-to-face interview. So our study provides some initial evidence for the effectiveness of remote interviewing.”
The research was funded by a grant awarded to Dr Nash by the Richard Benjamin Trust.
Full reference: Nash, R., Houston, K. A., Ryan, K., & Woodger, N. (in press). Remembering remotely: Would video-mediation impair witnesses’ memory reports? Psychology, Crime & Law.