Annelies Vredeveldt’s research has the potential to change practice in legal circles, the WSJ writes
Should witnesses of crimes be interviewed by the police alone or together? Findings by Branco Weiss fellow Annelies Vredeveldt could have the potential to shake up decades of practice in legal circles, the Wall Street Journal writes.
Police procedure has so far been to interview witnesses independently one after another. For good reasons: Social pressure can make someone change his tune, or errors might be introduced into the testimony. Contagion and the power of suggestion might also create the feeling that events that never even happened actually occurred.
In two studies, Annelies Vredeveldt and researcher colleagues in the field of legal psychology recently found out, that people make fewer errors recalling events when they are interviewed together. The first study (published in Memory) was carried out with 53 adults, who went to a play and afterwards had to describe a violent, emotional scene. The 36, that came as couples, delivered a more precise description than the 17, that were interviewed as individuals, because they corrected each other. The second study, published in Legal and Criminological Psychology, used a larger sample, had more controlled conditions – and had the same findings.
So what now? Vredeveldt proposes, that people should still be interviewed individually. But instead of sending them home after that, investigators might generate more leads and fewer errors if they put witnesses together as well.
Article in Wall Street Journal
Study in Memory
Study in Legal and Criminological Psychology