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. 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.
A self-generated cue might be any idiosyncratic detail of an experienced event that is in some way salient or memorable to that individual.
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 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.
As part of CREST’s commitment to open access research, this text is available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence. Please refer to our Copyright page for full details.
IMAGE CREDITS: Copyright ©2023 R. Stevens / CREST (CC BY-SA 4.0)