Implicit Eyewitness Memory Dissertation

(2013). Implicit Eyewitness Memory . 10.25148/etd.FI13080522

thesis or dissertation chair


  • Carol, Rolando N


  • After a crime has occurred, one of the most pressing objectives for investigators is to identify and interview any eyewitness that can provide information about the crime. Depending on his or her training, the investigative interviewer will use (to varying degrees) mostly yes/no questions, some cued and multiple-choice questions, with few open-ended questions. When the witness cannot generate any more details about the crime, one assumes the eyewitness’ memory for the critical event has been exhausted. However, given what we know about memory, is this a safe assumption? In line with the extant literature on human cognition, if one assumes (a) an eyewitness has more available memories of the crime than he or she has accessible and (b) only explicit probes have been used to elicit information, then one can argue this eyewitness may still be able to provide additional information via implicit memory tests. In accordance with these notions, the present study had two goals: demonstrate that (1) eyewitnesses can reveal memory implicitly for a detail-rich event and (2) particularly for brief crimes, eyewitnesses can reveal memory for event details implicitly that were inaccessible when probed for explicitly. Undergraduates (N = 227) participated in a psychological experiment in exchange for research credit. Participants were presented with one of three stimulus videos (brief crime vs. long crime vs. irrelevant video). Then, participants either completed a series of implicit memory tasks or worked on a puzzle for 5 minutes. Lastly, participants were interviewed explicitly about the previous video via free recall and recognition tasks. Findings indicated that participants who viewed the brief crime provided significantly more crime-related details implicitly than those who viewed the long crime. The data also showed participants who viewed the long crime provided marginally more accurate details during free recall than participants who viewed the brief crime. Furthermore, participants who completed the implicit memory tasks provided significantly less accurate information during the explicit interview than participants who were not given implicit memory tasks. This study was the first to investigate implicit memory for eyewitnesses of a crime. To determine its applied value, additional empirical work is required.

publication date

  • June 21, 2013


  • eyewitness memory
  • implicit memory
  • investigative interviewing

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)