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Effects of cooperation on information disclosure in mock-witness interviews

Journal article
Authors A. D. Vilar
R. Horselenberg
Leif Strömwall
Sara Landström
L. Hope
P. J. vanKoppen
Published in Legal and Criminological Psychology
ISSN 1355-3259
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords cooperation, cost-benefit analysis, information elicitation, investigative interviewing, witness statement, simulating amnesia, retrieval practice, memory, accuracy, tactics, impact, Criminology & Penology, Government & Law, Psychology
Subject categories Criminology, Psychology


Purpose Forensic interviewers often face witnesses who are unwilling to cooperate with the investigation. In this experimental study, we examined the extent to which cooperativeness instructions affect information disclosure in a witness investigative interview. Methods One hundred and thirty-six participants watched a recorded mock-crime and were interviewed twice as mock-witnesses. They were randomly assigned to one of four conditions instructing different levels of cooperativeness: Control (no instructions), Cooperation, No Cooperation, and No Cooperation plus Cooperation. The cooperativeness instructions aimed to influence how participants' perceived the costs and benefits of cooperation. We predicted that Cooperation and No Cooperation instructions would increase and decrease information disclosure and accuracy, respectively. Results We found decreased information disclosure and, to a lesser extent, accuracy in the No Cooperation and No Cooperation plus Cooperation conditions. In a second interview, the shift of instructions from No Cooperation to Cooperation led to a limited increase of information disclosure at no cost of accuracy. Cooperativeness instructions partially influenced the communication strategies participants used to disclose or withhold information. Conclusions Our results demonstrate the detrimental effects of uncooperativeness on information disclosure and, to a lesser extent, the accuracy of witness statements. We discuss the implications of a lack of witness cooperation and the importance of gaining witness cooperation to facilitate information disclosure in investigative interviews.

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