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Collaborative eyewitnesses make fewer mistakes in police interviews

Currently, police detectives all over the world almost exclusively conduct interviews with one witness at a time.

By Brooks Hays
Collaborative eyewitnesses make fewer mistakes in police interviews
New research suggest eyewitness to a crime may supply police detectives more accurate information when allowed to collaborate in pairs. Photo by Ilya Andriyanov/Shutterstock

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, June 24 (UPI) -- A number of studies have highlighted the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, but witnesses to a crime may more accurately recall the transgression and perpetrator when working together.

New research shows collaborative pairs of eyewitnesses make fewer mistakes recounting a crime in police interviews than solo interviewees.

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The findings contradict previous research that shows eyewitnesses can taint another witness' memory with false information. Scientists at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam found that such studies often include witnesses purposefully supplying others with false information.

The latest study looked at natural conversational collaboration between two eyewitnesses. Researchers had 80 participants recall the details of a rape scene in a play they had seen the week before. Those who were interviewed in pairs made fewer errors than those who were interviewed by themselves.

Police all over the world almost exclusively conduct interviews with one witness at a time. While there may be risks to pairing witnesses, the new study -- published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology -- suggest the strategy should be considered by investigators.

"The research findings show that collaboration between witnesses can also have benefits," psychologists Annelies Vredeveldt and Peter van Koppen wrote in their study. "Until now, most people assumed that discussion between witnesses has only disadvantages."

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