A new CREST guide published today provides detail on the Self-Generated Cues Technique, which can aid in the recall of information.
Successful investigations in forensic and security contexts depend on eliciting reliable and detailed information from sources. However, memory for past experiences is malleable and often prone to errors of distortion, confabulation and omission.
Although cooperative sources are positively oriented towards reporting what they know, the use of ineffective communication practices and failure to support the retrieval of information from memory can impede the elicitation of a detailed account.
A new CREST guide looks at the Self-Generated Cues Technique and how it can be used, in conjunction with the Timeline Technique, to prompt the interviewee’s memory about a witnessed single event or a series of repeated events.
Self-generated cues are details that are actively generated by the interviewees themselves as important or salient aspects of a target memory. Witnessing an event is an inherently subjective experience. When an experience is shared by multiple people, it is likely that when attempting to remember what occurred, different details will stand out for each individual.
A self-generated cue might be any idiosyncratic detail of an experienced event that is in some way salient or memorable to that individual.
A self-generated cue might be any idiosyncratic detail of an experienced event that is in some way salient or memorable to that individual. Because of the nature of these cues, they can effectively prompt further recall of associated information.
Why do self-generated cues work as an effective memory aid?
Because details of a witnessed event are associated in memory, retrieving one detail often leads to recall of another. The use of this aid at retrieval helps activate the links between related details in memory and, in doing so, facilitates the recall and reporting of more information. If the overlap between the retrieval cue and the original memory is optimised, this will enhance retrieval further.
When using the self-generated cues memory aid, interviewers ask interviewees to list the ‘six things that come to mind’ when they think about the event. These ‘self-generated’ cues can then also be used to prompt the recall of other closely related details using open-questioning approaches.
Compared to interviewer-generated cues (e.g., mental reinstatement of context technique), self-generated cues are intuitive to use because they match the subjective experience of the interviewee.
This guide, by Feni Kontogianni, explains how self-generated cues can be used at the beginning of a debrief or in an interview with a cooperative interviewee, in conjunction with the Timeline Technique, to prompt the interviewee’s memory about a witnessed single event or a series of repeated events.
For further reading, see our guide on the Timeline Technique, as well as Feni Kontogianni’s thesis summary on eliciting information from cooperative sources about single and repeated multi-actor events.
The overarching aim of this programme of doctoral research was to examine the effectiveness of information elicitation techniques designed to enhance reports concerning multi-actor single and repeated events provided by cooperative sources.
Based on research by CREST Researcher Professor Lorraine Hope we have written a guide outlining The Timeline Technique. This technique can be used by interviewers to help interviewees by giving them an intuitive way of organising their recall and reporting, which makes it easier to organise their thoughts and reduces demands on working memory. You can download this guide here:
This CREST guide is a product from the ‘Eliciting Information‘ programme. You can read more about the CREST funded programme here: https://crestresearch.ac.uk/projects/eliciting-information/
All our resources on Eliciting Information can be found here: https://crestresearch.ac.uk/tag/eliciting-information/
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