Facing away from the interviewer: Evidence of little benefit to eyewitnesses’ memory performance

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Abstract

Averting gaze from another person’s face generally improves cognitive performance, yet, little is known about how witnesses’ gaze direction affects their recall during investigative interviews. Here, participants witnessed a video-recorded incident, and were interviewed via free recall and closed questions following a short delay. In Experiment 1, participants either faced the interviewer or faced away during the interview. In Experiment 2, alongside this manipulation, the interviewer also either faced the witness or faced away. In Experiment 3, witness gaze direction was manipulated alongside rapport-building. In Experiment 4, the effect of facing away was directly compared with that of eye-closure. Mini meta-analysis of all four experiments showed that the effect of witness gaze direction on memory performance was minimal. Furthermore, neither aversion of interviewer’s gaze nor rapport-building magnified this effect. Added to the cumulative literature on eyewitness gaze aversion, these findings afford better estimates of the likely size of these effects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Early online date6 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Applied Cognitive Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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