This CREST guide is an overview of an interviewing protocol – the Cognitive Interview – which aims to improve the recall of accurate and reliable information from interviewees.

What is the Cognitive Interview?

The Cognitive Interview (CI) is a theory and evidence-based interviewing protocol which aims to improve the recall of accurate and reliable information from an interviewee. The CI approach addresses three primary psychological processes that underlie interviews with cooperative interviewees:

  1. The social dynamics between the interviewee and interviewer
  2. The interviewee’s and interviewer’s cognitive processes
  3. The communication between the interviewee and interviewer.

The CI protocol comprises a set of phases to work through to establish the prime conditions to maximise retrieval from memory and to enable communication of the retrieved information.

When can it be used?

The CI can be used, with a co-operative interviewee, in any debrief or interview where the goal is to elicit detailed information.

For the CI to be used effectively in the field, where the cognitive and social demands vary across situations and interviewees, it cannot be used as a recipe and applied to all interviewees in the same fashion. Rather, for greatest effect, it should be implemented as a toolbox of skills to be used strategically, including only those elements that are appropriate for the specific interview scenario, and modifying or adapting the various elements as the interviewee or situation demands.