One of the most important aspects of the information obtained during an investigation is that it should have as much relevant detail as possible. Psychologists have therefore helped to develop processes, especially for police interviews, that maximise the information obtained. In doing this, the perspective is taken that there are two issues that need to be as effective as possible. One is based on the assumption that the respondent in an interview is essentially trying to remember what occurred. Therefore anything that can help the memory process should be of value. The second issue is the relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee. If this relationship can be as supportive and as helpful as possible then more effective information is likely to be obtained.
Out of these considerations guidelines for interviews have been developed. The best known of these is referred to as the 'cognitive interview', developed by Fisher and Geiselman (1992). This is based on the assumption that memory is an active reconstructive process rather than a relatively passive act of recall. It draws on the well-established finding that recognition of information is much easier than its recall. Therefore any procedure that can help the interviewee to recreate the events in his/her own mind will be of value. This includes encouraging the respondent to describe the events as they are remembered rather than in strict response to particular questions in a given sequence. Reinstating the circumstances of the offence whenever possible, by returning to the scene or exploring details like sounds and smells, also accord with an understanding of the psychological processes by which memories are reconstructed. Attempts to consider the events from a variety of different perspectives are also considered valuable.
Investigative hypnosis has also been used to improve recall of information. In many respects hypnosis can be seen as a more intensive form of cognitive interview in which the respondent is helped to relax and concentrate (Wagstaff, 1984). There are certainly many anecdotal accounts of its effectiveness. However, the possibilities of leading the respondent to offer information that may be suggested by the interviewing hypnotist are considered much greater than for the interviewer in a cognitive interview. Many jurisdictions therefore have very close controls over the ways in which hypnotic interviews can be conducted.
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For anyone concerned that this is a report designed to teach readers how to convince crowds of people to act like chickens or dance to an unheard song just with a carefully placed keyword - relax. While hypnosis is often paraded in that form with large crowds visiting celebrity hypnosis experts to see what wonders they can perform, the majority of hypnosis used is to aid people seeking a solution to a problem they cannot resolve easily with any other method.