Using the Cognitive Interview with Children with Cognitive Impairments

Updated: May 12

The primary objectives for the proposed study will be to examine children’s (who have cognitive impairments) truthful and false disclosures about an event they recently witnessed, and the effectiveness of the Cognitive Interview at eliciting accurate, informative and truthful reports. Children will see a magic show where they will learn to do a magic trick. During the magic session, the magician will accidentally spill ink on a special gloves. Later the magician will ask the children not to tell anyone about the spill. We will examine if the Cognitive Interview which uses techniques that are design to aid memory and recall will facilitate disclosures (i.e., amount and type of detail) in children with cognitive impairments compared to a standard interview. The findings of this research can have important implications for parents, teachers, social workers, and professionals involved in investigations of child maltreatment with individuals with cognitive impairments.


Principal Investigator (PI): Victoria Talwar, PhD

Institution & Department: McGill University – Department of Educational & Counseling Psychology

Year(s) collaborated with SCERT on project: 2016 - 2018

 

Results of Research Project:


Published Paper: The effectiveness of free-recall, cognitive instruction and closed-ended questions when students with and without disabilities provide eyewitness reports of another’s transgression

Wyman Saykaly Talwar (2020)
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The current study evaluated the efficacy of free-recall, cognitive instruction and closed-ended questions with students (N = 50; ages 6–18) with developmental disabilities. After watching a magic show wherein the magician made a major error, the students were asked by the magician to keep the transgression a secret. Next, students were interviewed using the Cognitive Interview (CI: free-recall, cognitive instruction and closed-ended questions) or a Standard Interview (SI: free-recall and closedended questions) by an unfamiliar researcher whereby their statement quality (statement consistency, veracity and disclosure forthcomingness) and quantity (number of words, transgression details and events recalled) were evaluated. The CI group disclosed significantly more total words and events than the SI group, without compromising testimony consistency; while not significant, descriptive differences in transgression details were found between interview groups. Nevertheless, there were no significant interview group differences in disclosure honesty or forthcomingness. Truth-tellers provided the most forthcoming and detailed statements on the free-recall question, irrespective of interview type. Conversely, lie-tellers rarely discussed the alleged transgression, and primarily lied on the final direct closed-ended question. These results suggest that the CI can be effective with students with developmental disabilities for increasing eyewitness memory recall.


Joshua Wyman , Christine Saykaly & Victoria Talwar (2020): The effectiveness of free-recall, cognitive instruction and closed-ended questions when students with and without disabilities provide eyewitness reports of another’s transgression, Psychology, Crime & Law