Cooperation, reminiscence and repeated interviews of suspects

  • Leah Scott

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMasters by Research


Previous research on police interviews with victims/witnesses of crime suggests that an initial interview does not represent a full version of events, with new, previously un-recalled information given in subsequent interviews (reminiscence), especially when open-ended prompts are used to promote free recall. Suspects of crime may have different motivations to victims/witnesses such as the motivation to deceive. Research on suspect interviewing tends to focus on how officers can detect deception during interviews and factors which may increase the risk of false confessions (reviewed in Chapter 2 along with current protocols for interviewing suspects). A case study of the repeated testimony of a real life suspect of murder (Chapter 3) showed that a substantial amount of information given by the suspect in the second and third recall attempts was new information (i.e. reminiscence). Additionally, despite their low usage, invitations yielded nearly four times the average response length from the suspect compared to other question types. This work suggests that similar social and memory processes may be involved when conducting repeated interviews of victims/witnesses of crime and suspects to crime, at least when those suspects are cooperative. An experiment then examined the use of a subtle prime to being watched in order to increase cooperation when individuals write about a prior moral transgression (Chapter 4). The presence of a web camera lead to more information reported and more words written (across both sessions) and greater reminiscence (proportion of new information) approximately one day later. These findings suggest early evidence, at least in the laboratory, that suspect cooperation may be increased when cues to being watched are present. Directions for future research are discussed and findings are interpreted in light of previous research on suspect interviewing (Chapter 5).
Date of AwardAug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Abertay University
SupervisorChristopher Watkins (Supervisor) & David La Rooy (Supervisor)

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