During an interview a source may respond to a question with either 'I don't know' or 'I don't remember'. This may well be a legitimate response; however, these responses may also reflect several cognitive, social and motivational states. Therefore, there are many reasons for why a source might respond with an 'I don't know or 'I don't remember'.
There are many reasons why a source might respond with an 'I don't know or 'I don't remember'
Drawing on a range of published research, Professor Lorraine Hope has developed a taxonomy of the potential reasons for the 'I don't know' response, to explore, understand and inform in interview settings.
Through a series of posters, Professor Hope provides examples that illustrate each reason along with possible responses.
This poster gives an overview of the many reasons why a source would say 'I don't know' or 'I don't remember'.
The other 5 posters look in more detail at each of the cognitive, social and motivational states:
- Memory Encoding - reasons that relate to factors at memory encoding, such as attention, distraction, reduced psychological capacity.
- Memory Retrieval - reasons relating to memory retrieval, such as forgetting, uncertainty and metacognition, lack of retrieval support.
- Interview Context - reasons relating to interview context, such as pragmatic communication, impression management and inferences about the interview.
- Distrust, Cynicism and Hostility - reasons that relate to distrust, cynicism and hostility such as trust and control issues, perceptions of efficacy and deliberate deceit to mislead.
- Personal Motivation - reasons that relates to motivational factors such as reluctance (fear, protecting others), status insecurity and ideological motivations e.g., taboo, shame, identity as an 'informer'.
Lorraine Hope is a CREST Researcher and Professor of Applied Cognitive Psychology at the University of Portsmouth.
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