Forensic psychology
Forensic psychology

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Forensic psychology

3.3 Questioning witnesses

Figure 6

In Week 1, you were introduced to ‘estimator variables’, which are not under the control of the police. Here we turn our attention to ‘system variables’, and in particular one of the most important, how to question a witness.

Asking questions is part of our daily routine – ‘Have you got the time?’, ‘What did you do at school today?’, ‘Are you listening to anything I’m saying?’ – and yet we may never have stopped to consider the effectiveness of the questions we ask. Many different social, cognitive, motivational and cultural factors can influence both the way in which we ask a question, and the way in which we answer other people’s questions. Our focus now will be on questioning as it occurs in the context of an investigative interview and how questions can affect not only what we report, but actually what we remember.

Indeed, it is possible to ask questions in such a way that a witness will change their memory to incorporate information suggested in the question, or even form a memory of something that they did not see happen. In the next section, we will look at a research tool that has been used to explore such ‘false memories’.

FPSY_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus