Information Systems

College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis

The Cognitive Interview

The Cognitive Interview uses five principles of memory retrieval to guide the user in remembering problems and systems requirements. This summary was taken from a recent article,in Journal of Management Information Systems [Moody, J.W., J.Ellis Blanton and P.H. Cheney, "A Theoretically Grounded Approach to Assist Memory Recall During Information Requirements Determination," Journal of Management Information Systems, 15(1), Summer, 1998, p. 79-98.]

context recreation

Recall is enhanced by recreating the event stimuli (physical and psychological).

Ask inteviewee to think back to the original event, recalling the physical (time of day, workspace, etc.) As well as the emotional (rushed, bored, etc.) surroundings.

focused concentration

Distractions deteriorate the memory retrieval process.

Interviewee may close eyes to minimize distractions; interviewer avoids interrupting or other intrusions to the sessions.

extensive retrieval

Recall is increased by increasing the number of retrieval attempts.

Interviewer does not let interviewee stop after a cursory search of memory, but encourages multiple attempts.

varied retrieval

Recall may be activated by different probes.

Events are commonly recalled in chronological order, from an egocentric perspective. Ask for the recall of details in reverse order, or starting from the middle and working to either end. In addition, asking the interviewee to recall the event from the perspective of a third party witnessing the event may elicit additional details previously unrecalled.

multiple representations

Events may be stored and recalled in two forms.

Have interviewee recall details considered unusual, humorous, etc. (I.e., those that share a theme. Ask interviewee to use multiple senses (sounds, tactile representations, etc.) When attempting to recall.

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