The empirical psychological eyewitness memory literature typically concerns episodic performance in the presence of another. Face-to-face interviewing has many advantages, but it also has many psychological disadvantages, i) organising face-to-face interviews often results in significant delays between encoding and retrieval, which can be detrimental because memory is malleable and suggestible, ii) interviewer variables such as gender, age, and culture can affect retrieval performance, iii) the demand characteristics associated with a perceived imbalance of power, status and expectation can also negatively impact the quality and quaintly of information retrieved, and reported. Interviews in virtual environments, on the other hand, are quicker, easier to arrange, and may well mitigate some of the negative effects of face-to-face interviews.
Using a between subjects, mock witness design we investigated the efficacy of remote interviewing in a virtual environment, communicating via avatars, with face-to-face interviews. In conditions of intentional encoding, forty participants first viewed a stimulus event, and following a distractor task were randomly allocated to ether the face-to-face, or avatar interview condition. In the latter, participants communicated using Oculus Rift headsets. Interactions were digitally recorded, and then transcribed.
Using multivariate inferential statistical methods, analysis of memorial performance revealed significant differences across retrieval conditions for the amount of correct, incorrect and confabulated episodic information recalled, and the type of information.
Our findings will be introduced, and discussed with reference to how technological advances might be utilised for investigating crime by supporting episodic remembering.