Memory and Consistency in Eliciting Information: When does (in)consistency matter?

16-031-01

A guide to distinguish between different types of inconsistency to help make a good judgement about where threats to accuracy lie.

The consistency of information provided either within the same account or between several accounts is often used to evaluate the overall accuracy of the information or assess the credibility of the interviewee. However, there are a number of factors that should be considered when assessing the overall consistency of a remembered account.

…there are a number of factors that should be considered when assessing the overall consistency of a remembered account.

First, there are different types of inconsistency. Some inconsistencies are the result of naturally occurring memory phenomena. The way people remember and recall things leads to natural (and non-deliberate) inconsistencies. Other types of inconsistency may be more problematic and may warrant further consideration.

Second, only certain types of inconsistency are associated with an increased likelihood of memory error. This means that understanding what type of inconsistency you are assessing is important for estimating accuracy.

So it’s important for interviewers to distinguish between different types of inconsistency so they can make a good judgement about where threats to accuracy lie. How can they do this?

Based on the work by CREST researcher Lorraine Hope, this guide details how to distinguish between different types of inconsistency and how to help make a good judgement about where threats to accuracy lie.

You can download the guide here 16-031-01.pdf. The guide will take fifteen minutes to read.

As part of CREST’s commitment to open access research this guide is available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence. For more details on how you can use our content see here.