Research

Research interests
Research collaborators
Ph.D. students

Research interests
Dr. Vredeveldt investigates how eyewitnesses remember crimes and how police interviewers can help them remember more and better. Improvements in witness interviewing would help the police obtain more valuable information from witnesses, which could lead to more criminal cases being solved. Her two main lines of research on eyewitness memory are outlined in more detail below.

Other research interests include: investigative interviewing, misinformation and false memories, police reports, face recognition, facial composite construction, own-race bias, confidence-accuracy relationships, and memory-based methods to detect deception.

The Eye-Closure Interview
Information obtained from eyewitnesses is one of the principal determinants of whether a criminal case is solved. During her Ph.D. and postdoctoral research, Dr. Vredeveldt investigated a new method intended to help witnesses remember more: closing the eyes during the investigative interview. By closing the eyes, witnesses can block out distractions from the environment (such as non-verbal cues from the interviewer) and focus on their mental image of the witnessed event. In a series of experiments, she found benefits of eye-closure for memory of events across a variety of conditions.

Dr. Vredeveldt published ten peer-reviewed journal articles and a book chapter on the Eye-Closure Interview. Her research on this topic also attracted attention from police interviewers in the field, who are keen to implement the procedure. She conducted a large-scale field study with the South African Police Services and was invited to give lectures on the Eye-Closure Interview at the European Police College course on investigative interviewing for senior police officers, at the Investigative Psychology Unit of the South African Police Services, and at the High-Value Detainee Interrogation group of the American FBI.

Discussion between witnesses
At VU University, Dr. Vredeveldt is pursuing a new line of enquiry that has received surprisingly little attention to date, namely, the potential benefits of discussion between witnesses. Previous research on co-witness discussion focused primarily on harmful consequences such as memory contamination. The methodology in previous studies typically did not allow for potential benefits to occur, however, for example because it involved a confederate who purposefully introduced errors. Theoretical work from disciplines such as cognitive psychology, sociology, and philosophy, however, suggests that remembering together can facilitate memory retrieval. Based on this work, Dr. Vredeveldt aims to identify circumstances in which discussion between witnesses can improve eyewitness testimony. Unlike previous studies on co-witness discussion, she examines naturalistic conversations between witnesses.

Dr. Vredeveldt has recently conducted a series of experiments on witness collaboration, which showed that in naturalistic discussions, witnesses were actually much more likely to correct each other’s errors than to adopt each other’s errors. In addition, pairs who actively acknowledged, repeated, rephrased and elaborated upon each other’s contributions remembered more together than pairs who used different types of retrieval strategies. Her findings that collaboration between witnesses can have significant benefits for eyewitness testimony run counter to the dominant narrative in the literature on co-witness discussion. The results of her research suggest that co-witness discussion is not as bad as previously thought.

In future research, Dr. Vredeveldt will conduct additional experiments to examine the boundary conditions and best practices in allowing witnesses to collaborate. For example, she plans to investigate the role of retrieval strategies during the discussion in more detail: do instructions on how to communicate result in more effective collaboration? Knowing more about the circumstances in which collaboration between witnesses is effective would facilitate specialized advice to police interviewers, tailored to the case at hand. With her research program on collaboration between witnesses, Dr. Vredeveldt hopes to (a) present a more balanced picture of the costs and benefits of co-witness discussion and (b) provide police interviewers with specific guidelines regarding the circumstances in which co-witness discussion is beneficial versus harmful.

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Research collaborators
Prof. Peter van Koppen (VU University Amsterdam)
Linda Kesteloo, LL.M. (VU University Amsterdam)
Dr. Sophie van der Zee (VU University Amsterdam)
Prof. Colin G. Tredoux (University of Cape Town)
Prof. Alan D. Baddeley (University of York)
Prof. Graham J. Hitch (University of York)
Prof. Tim J. Hollins (University of Plymouth)
Prof. Steven D. Penrod (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)
Dr. James D. Sauer (University of Tasmania)
Dr. Serena Mastroberardino (University of Rome)
Prof. Pär Anders Granhag (University of Gothenburg)

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PhD Students
Kate Kempen (University of Cape Town). The effects of composite construction on facial recognition.
Alicia Nortje (University of Cape Town). Investigating facial recognition for multiple-perpetrator crimes.
 

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