The cognitive interview: a survey of its forensic effectiveness

Mark R. Kebbell*, Rebecca Milne, Graham F. Wagstaff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The cognitive interview has been shown to have the potential to enhance witness recall. Consequently, it has been adopted by all police forces in England and Wales. The present paper surveyed 96 police officers trained in the cognitive interview and 65 untrained police officers, using a questionnaire. Officers rated how frequently they used and how useful they found components of the cognitive interview. Trained officers were significantly more likely to use instructions to mentally reinstate context, use different orders, change perspectives and imagery. Amongst trained officers there was a consensus that some components of the cognitive interview were used more frequently and were believed to be more useful than others. Rated as most useful and most frequently used were establish rapport, report everything, encourage concentration, witness compatible questioning, and mental reinstatement of context. Rated as less useful and less frequently used were recall in different orders, imagery, change perspectives and transfer control. Further responses indicated that the cognitive interview was generally perceived to be a useful procedure that increases correct recall, although officers were still aware that incorrect information can also be generated. However, a major problem for many officers was that they do not have the time to conduct a full cognitive interview.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-115
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999


  • Cognitive interview
  • Eyewitnesses
  • Police interviewing


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