Journal article

Acknowledge, repeat, rephrase, elaborate: Witnesses can help each other remember more

Vredeveldt A, Hildebrandt A, van Koppen P ...see all

Memory, vol. 24, issue 5 (2016) pp. 669-682 Published by Routledge

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Crimes are often observed by multiple witnesses. Research shows that
witnesses can contaminate each other's memory, but potential benefits of
co-witness discussion have not yet been investigated. We examined
whether witnesses can help each other remember, or prune each other's
errors. In a research design with high ecological validity, attendees of
a theatre play were interviewed approximately one week later about a
violent scene in the play. The couples that signed up for our study had
known each other for 31 years on average. Participants were first
interviewed individually and then took part in a collaborative
interview. We also included a control condition in which participants
took part in two individual interviews. Collaboration did not help
witnesses to remember more about the scene, but collaborative pairs made
significantly fewer errors than nominal pairs. Further, quantitative and
qualitative analyses of retrieval strategies during the discussion
revealed that couples who actively acknowledged, repeated, rephrased,
and elaborated upon each other's statements remembered significantly
more information overall. Taken together, our findings suggest that,
under certain circumstances, discussion between witnesses is not such a
bad idea after all.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Collaborative recall
  • Eyewitness memory
  • Retrieval strategy
  • Social cognition
  • Transactive memory

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