A field evaluation of the Eye-Closure Interview with witnesses of serious crimes

A. Vredeveldt, C.G. Tredoux, A. Nortje, K. Kempen, C. Puljevic, G.N. Labuschagne

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Laboratory research shows that eye-closure during memory retrieval improves both the amount and the factual accuracy of memory reports about witnessed events. Based on these findings, we developed the Eye-Closure Interview, and examined its feasibility (in terms of compliance with the instructions) and effectiveness (in terms of the quantity and quality of reported information) in eyewitness interviews conducted by the South African Police Service. Police interviewers from the Facial Identification Unit were randomly assigned to receive Eye-Closure Interview training or no training. We analyzed 95 interviews with witnesses of serious crimes (including robbery, rape, and murder), some of whom were instructed to close their eyes during salient parts of the interview. Witnesses in the control condition rarely spontaneously closed their eyes, but witnesses in the Eye-Closure Interview condition kept their eyes closed during 97% of their descriptions, suggesting that the Eye-Closure Interview would be easy to implement in a field setting. Although witnesses who closed their eyes did not remember more information overall, the information they provided was considered to be of significantly greater forensic relevance (as reflected in 2 independent blind assessments, 1 by a senior police expert and 1 by a senior researcher). Thus, based on the findings from this field study and from previous laboratory research, we conclude that implementation of the Eye-Closure Interview in witness interviews would help police interviewers to elicit more valuable information from witnesses, which could be relevant to the police investigation and/or in court.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-197
Number of pages9
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number2
Early online date24 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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