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How Can We Help Witnesses to Remember More? It’s an (Eyes) Open and Shut Case

Abstract

Five experiments tested the idea that instructing a witness to close their eyes during retrieval might increase retrieval success. In Experiment 1 participants watched a video, before a cued-recall test for which they were either instructed to close their eyes, or received no-instructions. Eye-closure led to an increase in correct cued-recall, with no increase in incorrect responses. Experiments 2–5 sought to test the generality of this effect over variations in study material (video or live interaction), test format (cued- or free-recall) and information modality (visual or auditory details recalled). Overall, eye-closure increased recall of both visual detail and auditory details, with no accompanying increase in recall of false details. Collectively, these data convincingly demonstrate the benefits of eye-closure as an aid to retrieval, and offer insight into why hypnosis, which usually involves eye-closure, may facilitate eyewitness recall.

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Correspondence to Timothy J. Perfect.

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Perfect, T.J., Wagstaff, G.F., Moore, D. et al. How Can We Help Witnesses to Remember More? It’s an (Eyes) Open and Shut Case. Law Hum Behav 32, 314–324 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10979-007-9109-5

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Keywords

  • Eyewitness memory
  • Eye-closure