Recounting a common experience: On the effectiveness of instructing eyewitness Pairs

Annelies Vredeveldt*, Peter J. van Koppen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Pairs of eyewitnesses with a content-focused interaction style remember significantly more about witnessed incidents. We examined whether content-focused retrieval strategies can be taught. Seventy-five pairs of witnesses were interviewed thrice about an event. The first and third interview were conducted individually for all witnesses. The second interview was individual, collaborative without instruction, or collaborative with instruction. Pairs in the latter condition were instructed to actively listen to and elaborate upon each other's contributions. The strategy instruction had no effect on retrieval strategies used, nor on the amount or accuracy of reported information. However, pairs who spontaneously adopted a content-focused interaction style during the collaborative interview remembered significantly more. Thus, our findings show that effective retrieval strategies cannot be taught, at least not with the current instructions. During the second interview, we observed collaborative inhibition and error pruning. When considering the total amount of information reported across the first two interviews, however, collaboration had no inhibitory effect on correct recall, yet the error pruning benefits remained. These findings suggest that investigative interviewers should interview witnesses separately first, and then interview pairs of witnesses collaboratively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number284
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMarch
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2018


  • Collaborative recall
  • Conformity
  • Eyewitness memory
  • Investigative interviewing
  • Retrieval strategy


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