Having trouble remembering where you left the car keys? Close your eyes. The details of when you last had your keys and where you placed them should return. This is according to a new study just published in the January 16, 2015 issue of the Legal and Criminology journal.
Researchers at the University of Surrey conducted two experiments, with a total test pool of 178 participants, to determine if closing the eyes or establishing a rapport with investigators would produce better crime witness testimony.
In the first experiment, participants watched a movie in which a crime of theft occurred. Following the movie, they were asked to answer a series of questions regarding details of the crime. The interview was conducted under four conditions: with eyes closed, eyes opened, cold interrogation and after building a rapport with the interviewer. Researchers found that when the eyes were closed, participants were able to answer more accurately, remembering such details as what was written on vehicles, etc. Building rapport also resulted in more correct answers, but closing the eyes yielded better results, regardless of other factors.
The second experiment entailed watching another film. This time there were two crimes portrayed: a burglary and also an assault on the homeowner. Participants were asked not to only relate what they saw, but also what they heard. The same four conditions were repeated. Closing the eyes helped participants recall both their visual and audio memory, whether they had established a rapport with the interviewer or not. Dr. Robert Nash, lead researcher, said that the data indicates that closing the eyes helps because it “removes distraction.” He adds, “The mechanisms we identified ought to apply to other contexts, for example trying to remember the details of a lecture.”
In both experiments, participants disclosed that they felt less comfortable closing their eyes if they have not established a rapport with the interviewer. This led the study to conclude that crime witness testimony would be greatly enhanced by first establishing rapport between the witness and the interviewer, and then by having the witness close his or her eyes.
So next time you’re trying to remember something, don’t be shy and close your eyes. You might not solve a crime, but you’ll have more chance of reconstructing that elusive picture in your mind.