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Memory – Witness Memory and the Cognitive Interview

4. What Is the Cognitive Interview?

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In this module, we take a closer look at the Cognitive Interview (Fisher and Geiselman, 1984) and how it works. We note that the aim of the cognitive interview is to increase the quantity and quality of information gathered from witnesses, victims and suspects and explore how the mnemonic techniques it employs contribute towards this purpose. In particular we focus on the first two of these techniques: (i) context reinstatement and (ii) the ‘report everything’ instruction.


In this course, Prof. Becky Milne (University of Portsmouth) discusses witness memory and the cognitive interview, a forensic interviewing technique used by police officers to improve the quantity and quality of information gathered from witnesses, victims and suspects. We begin, in module one, by thinking about the role of witnesses in a police investigation before moving on, in module two, to look at witness memory more specifically. Module three introduces the cognitive interview as an important aspect of police training in the UK, while module four explores what the cognitive interview is and how it works. Module five concludes the course by looking at how the cognitive interview is applied in real life scenarios.


Becky Milne is Professor of Forensic Psychology and is a chartered forensic psychologist and scientist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. She is an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Police Science and Management and is on the editorial boards for the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, Frontiers: Forensic and Legal Psychology, Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, and the British Journal of Forensic Practice. Becky is one of the Academic lead members of the Association of National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) Investigative Interviewing Strategic Steering Group. The main focus of her work over the past twenty years concerns the examination of police interviewing and investigation. Jointly with practitioners, she has helped to develop procedures the improve the quality of interviews of witnesses, victims, intelligence sources, and suspects of crime across many countries (e.g. the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Brazil, Ireland, China, South Korea, Cyrpus, Malta, Mauritius, Belgium, Iceland, South Africa, the USA, Canada, France, Portugal, Dubai, and Singapore). As a result, she works closely with the police (and other criminal justice organisations), creating novel interview techniques, developing training, running interview courses, and providing case advice. She has worked closely with the police and other criminal justice organisations (in the UK and abroad) through training of the Enhanced Cognitive Interview, Witness Interview Advising and also in the interviewing of vulnerable groups (Tier 3 and 5) and providing case advice. Becky was part of a team who developed the Achieving Best Evidence Document (Home Office, 2007) National guidance regarding how best to interview vulnerable and intimidated witnesses and victims, and she recently developed with Dr Kevin Smith, National UK Police Vulnerable lead (NCA) the witness interview strategy for critical incidents (WISCI) post the recent terror attacks. Becky was given the 2009 Tom Williamson award for her outstanding achievements in the field of investigative interviewing by ACPO (now NPCC). She is a CREST affiliate and an invited member of the Convention Against Torture Initiative, UN Group of Friends. Becky recently opened the Centre of Forensic Interviewing: Research and training in investigative interviewing for all types of investigator at all stages of their career, from the basics to advanced interview skills and master classes. The Centre also enables students to participate and examine interviews being conducted. The Centre will also host research projects and will provide an exciting opportunity to conduct new avenues of work in this field which will in turn help to inform the training provided to the practitioners. The Centre encompasses state of the art digital interview recording suites.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Milne, B. (2019, December 09). Memory – Witness Memory and the Cognitive Interview - What Is the Cognitive Interview? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Milne, B. "Memory – Witness Memory and the Cognitive Interview – What Is the Cognitive Interview?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 09 Dec 2019,

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