LP Magazine

JAN-FEB 2019

LP magazine publishes articles for loss prevention, asset protection, and retail professionals covering shrinkage, investigations, shoplifting, internal theft, fraud, technology, best practices, and career development.

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by David E. Zulawski, CFI, CFE and Shane G. Sturman, CFI, CPP Zulawski and Sturman are executives in the investigative and training firm of Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates (w-z.com). Zulawski is a senior partner, and Sturman is president. Sturman is also a member of ASIS International's Retail Loss Prevention Council. They can be reached at 800-222-7789 or via email at dzulawski@w-z.com and ssturman@w-z.com. © 2019 Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, Inc. INTERVIEWING continued on page 14 Evaluating Memory: I Remember It This Way, Part Two W itnessing an event is an extremely complex process beginning with the acquisition of the observation, followed by the retention or storage phase, and finally the retrieval phase where the recollection is described verbally. The human memory has been studied for well over 100 years by researchers around the world. As far back as 1902 in Berlin a staged event in a classroom was studied for the accuracy of the witnesses' retrieval of information. The students in the classroom were broken into groups and asked to write a report on their observations of a staged event—some immediately, some a day or a week later. The study revealed that the smallest number of mistakes was 26 percent erroneous statements, and the largest number of errors was 80 percent. The more emotional part of the fictitious event, where a gun was drawn and a shot fired, averaged 15 percent more errors than the first half. In addition, statements made by the participants were inaccurately attributed or simply made up. Plus, some of the major points of the staged event were completely eliminated by a number of witnesses. This study from 1902 has been replicated in a variety of different ways and fashions over the subsequent years, but each concluded that the human memory was far from accurate. The memories are described by most researchers as falling into three stages: 1) the acquisition stage, 2) the retention stage, and 3) the retrieval stage. Acquisition Stage When a witness first observes an event, only some of the details are observed and stored as part of the subsequent memory. The witness has to determine based on their observations which details are worth remembering based on where their eyes were focused and which details might be important later in deciding what to do. Retention Stage The retention stage is the time between the observation of the event and recalling the details observed. The retention period could be a matter of moments or a much longer period of time depending on the witness's need to talk about the actions. The retention stage of the observation can be affected when the witness is privy to new information. This new information could be provided by other witnesses to the event, media reporting, the interviewer's questioning the witness, or a variety of other sources. Retrieval Stage This part of the memory can be one of the more difficult components since the memory is not stored in one particular location in the brain but rather spread throughout the brain and linked in many different ways using our senses. The accuracy of the witness's information retrieval can be affected in all three of these areas. If the witness failed to observe a particular detail of the event, there is no memory of it, but questions posed may infer information that taints the retention. The other issue is the words used by the witness to describe the situation and the interviewer's assumptions of what they mean. Time Let's consider the development of a memory beginning with the acquisition phase and the things that can affect the retention and retrieval of details. First, the more amount of time the witness has to make the observation, the more information they will likely be able to retrieve accurately. In one study conducted in 1971 by K. R. Laughery, participants were asked to look at slides of a human face for either 2.5 seconds or eight seconds each. After eight minutes, the participants viewed 150 projected slides of human faces and were asked to score whether these were the four faces they had seen. The research supported the idea that a greater amount of One hundred forty-one witnesses to a staged classroom event viewed a distraught student attacking a professor. The event, which was videotaped for comparison to the witness accounts, showed that the attack lasted thirty-four seconds. When questioned about the duration of the attack, the witnesses' response averaged eighty-one seconds, almost three times longer than it took. 12 JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2019 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM

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