Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling

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Solving the puzzle: The effects of contextual information and feedback on the interpretation of a crime scene

Abstract

In this study, we examined how the provision of contextual information and the ability to ask questions and obtain feedback affected mock investigators' interpretation of a crime scene. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 conditions in a 2 × 2 design and assessed two photographs of the same crime scene. Participants were instructed to write a narrative about what they thought had happened at the scene. Results showed that the provision of contextual information and the ability to ask questions had no effect on the lengths of the narratives participants produced. However, participants who received contextual information wrote a more factual narrative containing more descriptions of actions before, during, and after the crime. Across all conditions, most of the questions were asked about persons who could in some way be involved in the crime. Results of this study indicate that the provision of contextual information helped participants to focus on the more factual, rather than speculative elements, of the crime.

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