The cognitive interview has been developed to help with memory retrieval, specifically in the criminal justice system to address concerns about the unreliability of eye-witness accounts. It can consist of a number of techniques for helping people to recall specific incidents, for example asking the interviewee about general activities and feelings at the time they are trying to recall, asking them to report from different perspectives, or in a different narrative order. The approach has been shown to increase correct memory recall.
The researchers in this study were interested to see if this approach could be used to help people with learning disabilities to recall better, the details of a theft they saw on a film.
What they did was work with 21 adults with a mild learning disability and 21 matched adults from the general population without a learning disability. They show each participant a film of a staged distraction theft and then interviewed them, using either a structured interview schedule or the cognitive interview.
What they found was the group with learning disabilities reported significantly less correct information than the group from the general population, with both the structured interview and the cognitive interview.
However, the cognitive interview enhanced the correct recall of the person, the action involved and the git of the conversation for both the people with learning disabilities and the participants from the general population.
The authors conclude that the use of the cognitive interview could help adults with learning disabilities to recall good detail of an event they have experienced, which could have implications for reliability of information provided in a wide range of contexts.
How Effective is the Cognitive Interview When Used with Adults with Intellectual Disabilities Specifically with Conversation Recall?, Clarke J et al., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 26: 546–556.