Study find that eyewitnesses remember details better when they close their eyes



In a study published in the journal Legal and Criminology Psychology, researchers from the University of Surrey have argued that eyewitnesses to crimes can remember details more accurately when they close their eyes.

In addition, the researchers found that building rapport with the witnesses assisted them in remembering more.

The two studies consisted of 178 participants. In the first, they watched a film in which an electrician entered a property, carried out jobs, and stole items.

The “witnesses” were then asked a number of questions relating to the film, eg “What was written on the front of the van?”

It was found that when participants closed their eyes they answered 23 per cent more of questions correctly.

Increasing rapport also raised the number of correct answers but the act of closing one’s eyes was found to be effective whether rapport had been established or not.

In the second experiment the memory task was taken further.

The participants were asked about things they had heard as well as other things they had seen.

Witnesses watched a Crimewatch clip which reconstructed a burglary in which an elderly man was attacked at home.

Again the results indicated that when participants closed their eyes they were able to recall both audio and visual details more accurately, irrespective of whether or not rapport had been established.

In both experiments those who had not built rapport reported feeling less comfortable when they closed their eyes as opposed to when they kept them open.

In contrast, those who had established rapport were comfortable closing their eyes.

Lead author, Dr Robert Nash, said: “It is clear from our research that closing the eyes and building rapport helps with witness recall.

“Although closing your eyes to remember seems to work whether or not rapport has been built beforehand, our results show that building rapport makes witnesses more at ease with closing their eyes.

“That in itself is vital if we are to encourage witnesses to use this helpful technique during interviews.”