Gestures are a form of non-verbal communication. They are used as a method of conveying a message without actually using words. One can use any part of his/her body to make a gesture. However, most of them are made by hand. A person may use gestures to suggest that something was done, or to signal to a certain object. For instance, waving of the palm can mean goodbye or hello, according to the way it is done. In addition, pointing to the head can mean that someone is wearing a hat or thinking deeply. Lifting of the thumbs is usually a congratulatory sign. In the context of the courtroom, gestures can be used to help a witness remember certain things that he/she may not have registered in their mind. It may also suggest something false thus making their testimony unreliable.
When an eye witness is told to give a vivid recollection of the events that they witnessed, there are some details that they may recall which may be altered. For instance, an eyewitness to a robbery may recall the robber wearing a cardigan. If the interviewer asks what the robber was wearing while wrapping his hands around his shoulders as if he was feeling cold, the eyewitness may be drawn towards saying that the robber was wearing a coat. This is because coats are associated with cold weather, and the gesture used in this incidence signals to one feeling cold.
Gestures can be useful in refreshing the memory of the eyewitness. This is especially the case when the witness is a child. For instance, if an interviewer holds circled fingers around his eyes, the child may remember some details relating to sunglasses. In addition, if the interviewer throws his fist into the air, the child might remember a detail involving a fight.
In the experiment, non-occurring events were those that were suggested by the interviewer, yet they did not appear in the experiment itself. They were a way of testing whether the children would give a correct account of the events that happened or would be swayed by suggestions and gestures. According to the findings, the non-occurring events that were accompanied by gestures received a more affirmative answer (Broaders, Goldin-Meadow, 2011). For instance, when asked whether the music performer was wearing a hat, most children gave a non-affirmative answer. However, upon gesturing towards the head while asking the same question, most of the children gave an affirmative answer. This shows that gestures were instrumental in swaying the answers that the children gave with regard to non occurring events.
The experiment found that when incorporated into an interview, gestures may lead to gathering of additional information that may not be necessarily correct. Interviewers as well as eye witnesses share the burden of making sure that gestures and other non-verbal suggestions do not interfere with the authenticity of the testimony given.
One of the suggestions for the interviewers, both formal and informal is to avoid using gestures of suggestive dialogue when conducting interviews. By doing this, the interviewer gives all the power to the eye witness. The recollection that is given is unbiased and uninfluenced by the gestures. The use of open ended questions is also encouraged, since it gives the eyewitness a chance to recount the event in their own words rather than to follow what the interviewer suggests.
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The other suggestion was to videotape both the interviewer and the witness. This way, the whole dialogue will be caught on camera and investigators will be able to monitor the gestures used by both parties during the interview. By so doing, it will be clear whether additional information from gestures was derived from the witness or the interviewer.
These suggestions are both viable and would be useful in training people involved in interviewing. As it was already mentioned, gestures can add false information to a statement given by a child witness. Therefore, by careful training, interviewers can avoid the mistake of misleading children into giving false information. In addition, training will ensure that the interviewers know when and where to use gestures. This will make the quality of answers and statements given in such interviewers purer.
According to the study, using robots to question witnesses leads to a more accurate account of details than using human as interviewers (Hodson, 2013). This is because humans elicit behavioral cues that robots can identify with, unlike robots which are lifeless. These findings are useful in determining whether human interviewers should be replaced with robots. It is mentioned that the accuracy of interviews conducted by robots is 40% higher than that of interviews conducted by humans. If this is the case, then by all means the issue of robots being used in interviews should be given keener attention.
When it comes to interviewing children, it would be useful to use robots. Children are more prone to being swayed by adult interviewers and suggestive dialogues. However, when a robot is used, there is no chance of going off the script, and hence the children cannot be swayed from their memory. In addition, since children are sensitive to human emotions, interaction and other aspects of human interviewing that mat elicit a memory in their past, it is useful to use a robot that has no emotions or memory of passing on to the children. It would also be easy to get certification for a robot to interview a child than it is for an adult
This study is meant to test whether IQ affects the answers given by children when interviewed on non occurring events.
A group of ten children with varying and known Intelligence Quotients watched a movie in the same room at the same time. After a week, they were asked a series of questions about the movie. The first round of questions was an open ended script, where the children, were told to give an overview of the movie. The next round included structured question which were accompanied by some gestures. The third round included suggestion on non occurring question, some of which were accompanied by gestures while others were not accompanied by any gestures.
Children with a higher IQ gave a more vivid and accurate account of the movie than those with lower IQ levels. This trend was consistent, with those children having the lowest IQ giving a poor account of the details. When it came to the part of the interview where gestures were used, almost all children were susceptible to the manipulation regardless of the IQ levels. However, the ones who had a higher IQ were able to give a better account of the movie and the questions posed to them, even with the use of gestures. The children with higher IQ levels were also more affirmative with their answers on no occurring events than the others. The children with lower IQ levels were gave answers that indicated a higher level of reliance on the gestures used by the interviewer.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Children with a high level of IQ make for better witnesses, especially where gestures are to be used. Interviewers should hence take a note of this factor. It shows whether a child will give a near accurate report or whether the account of events will be invalid. Therefore, before ruling on whether to use gestures in an interview or not, the interviewer should consider the intelligence level of the child. This case also applies when the person being interviewed is an adult.
- Truth is at hand: How gesture adds information during investigative interviews
- Robot inquisition keeps witnesses on the right track | New Scientist