ICOM 2011 abstract


Closing the Eyes Helps Witnesses to Remember a Live Altercation

Annelies Vredeveldt, University of York; Steven D. Penrod, HaeRim Jin, Veronica A. Cortez, Alexandra Bennet-Roach, Erin Kearns, & Jacqueline Howe, John Jay College, City University of New York

Closing the eyes helps witnesses to remember more. We extended previous findings by examining memory for a forensically relevant live altercation on the street. Witnesses were interviewed either inside, or outside on the street, to resemble initial witness statements taken by the police. We found that witnesses who closed their eyes reported significantly more visual details about the altercation in free recall, without affecting testimonial accuracy. This effect was somewhat more pronounced for witnesses interviewed inside than for witnesses interviewed outside. Witnesses who closed their eyes also gave significantly more fully-correct answers to questions about visual aspects of the altercation. This effect was observed regardless of interview location. Thus, converging evidence suggests that eye-closure may be an effective strategy to help witnesses remember more, even in realistic settings. These findings have clear implications for police interviewing practices.