FBI interest in study by Dutch researcher

Maastricht – The American FBI is interested in a research project by Annelies Vredeveldt from Maastricht about interviewing witnesses with closed eyes. Vredeveldt says that witnesses are better at remembering the perpetrator of a crime if they close their eyes during a police interview.

The researcher from Maastricht conducted her research last year in collaboration with the police in Cape Town, South Africa. She was also working with the well-known forensic psychologist professor Colin Tredoux.

Last month Annelies Vredeveldt (26) presented her conclusions at a conference in Washington, also attended by employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice of the United States. Vredeveldt: “Everyone was very interested and some attendees said that they would also use this technique in practice. However, I don’t know whether it will be incorporated in their formal interview training.” She received $100.000 for her research from the American government.

FBI spokesperson Denise Ballew denies nor confirms that the FBI will from now on ask witnesses to close their eyes during the interview. “As the FBI, we never publicize anything about our current or future techniques, tactics, or procedures when it concerns detective work.”

The national police in the Netherlands considers Vredeveldt’s findings to be “interesting”, according to a police spokesperson. “That does not mean that we will also implement this interview technique. For that, we would first need to learn more about it”, according to the spokesperson.

The research is based on eighty witness interviews. Half of the witnesses were asked to close their eyes during the interview. It concerned statements from witnesses and victims of rape, murder, armed and unarmed robberies. Vredeveldt: “With their eyes closed, witnesses remembered significantly more (21 percent, redacted) about for example what the perpetrator looked like, how he sounded, and how he smelled. A police expert considered the information from the witnesses with closed eyes more relevant for the police investigation or court case. Because witnesses in the eyes-closed group kept their eyes closed during 97% of their descriptions, Vredeveldt concludes that witnesses do not feel uncomfortable closing their eyes. In the control group almost nobody closed their eyes spontaneously.

Article in Dutch published in Dagblad de Limburger on 26/11/2013
English translation by Annelies Vredeveldt