Information Retrieval: Interviewing Witnesses
Ronald P. Fisher Michelle R. McCauley Florida International University
Surveys of the criminal justice system indicate that the primary determinant of whether or not a case is solved is the completeness and accuracy of the eyewitness' account ( Rand Corporation, 1975; Sanders, 1986). Despite the importance of eyewitness information police detectives receive only minimal--and often no--training in effective methods to interview cooperative witnesses ( Cahill & Mingay, 1986; George & Clifford, 1992; Rand Corporation, 1975). Typically police learn to conduct interviews by trial and error or by emulating the style of a senior officer. Often they simply receive a checklist of evidence to be gathered and are left on their own, without guidance, to elicit the information. Given this lack of training, it should not be surprising that police investigators (and others equally untrained, including attorneys, fire marshals, accident investigators, etc.) frequently make avoidable mistakes and fail to elicit potentially valuable information.
In response to the need to improve police interview procedures, Fisher and Geiselman developed a new procedure based on the scientific literature of cognitive psychology (and hence the name, Cognitive Interview: CI). This chapter reviews the work to develop the CI and is presented in six sections: Principles of the CI, Empirical evaluation, Extensions and Current Research, Training to Learn the CI, Challenges to the CI, and Limitations of the CI.
The CI has evolved in two distinct phases over the past 10 years. The original version of the CI was made up of a limited set of interviewing principles de-