Dr Milne on Cognitive Interviewing

Short summary of Dr. Becky Milne’s Masterclass held on 10 August 2012

On Friday 10 August Dr. Becky Milne, Director of the Centre of Forensic Interviewing and Reader in Forensic Psychology at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth in the UK spoke to an audience of 45 workplace investigators about witness memory and the Cognitive Interview approach to obtaining witness recall.

Dr. Milnes’ presentation spotlighted key messages about witness interviews and left an indelible image in my mind of the witness with crime tape around their head. Making the comparison between the witnesses brain and a murder crime scene Dr. Milne compared the lengths we go to  preserve the forensic evidence at a murder scene with the lack of controls over contamination of memory in witnesses.

Her presentation contained three key messages:
  1. The importance of matching interview techniques to the type of memory being retrieved (episodic or semantic).
  2. The importance of audio recording all interviews including those with witnesses to enable accurate assessment of the level of contamination of a witnesses evidence.
  3. With 90% accuracy, the information provided in Free recall, or PUKE as Dr. Milne termed it (Pure Unadulterated Knowledge Extraction) the aim of the Cognitive Interview is to maximise the PUKE and reduce the need for questions – any questions. Given that asking questions (of any type) contaminates the information provided by witnesses the ideal interview would be the Questionless Interview!