The empirical psychological eyewitness-memory literature typically concerns episodic performance in the presence of another. Face-to-face interviewing has many advantages, but also many psychological disadvantages, i) significant delays between encoding and retrieval, which are detrimental to memory performance ii) interviewer variables such as gender, age, culture, can affect retrieval performance, iii) the demand characteristics associated with a perceived imbalance of power, status and expectation can negatively impact the quality/quantity of information reported. Interviews conducted either via telephone or in virtual environments, are quicker, easier to arrange, and may 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 two alternative contexts. Interviews were conducted remotely, either in a virtual environment communicating via avatars or using asynchronous vocal communication via a smartphone, and compared with face-to-face interviews. Following intentional encoding, sixty participants viewed a stimulus event, and following a distractor task were randomly allocated to either the face-to-face, avatar (using Oculus Rift headsets) or telephone interview condition. Interactions were digitally recorded, transcribed and then coded for memory performance.
Multivariate statistical 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.
Findings will be discussed with reference to how technological advances might be utilised for investigating crime by supporting episodic remembering.