How Trauma Suppresses Memory
Exceptional criminal interviewers have strong Emotional Intelligence skills.
Frequently we feel that victims and witnesses are deliberately withholding information. Sometimes they are - but most times they’re not. Victims, witnesses and even police officers are frequently experiencing emotional overload as a result of a traumatic event. Don’t let their demeanor fool you - they may be like ducks. Calm and cool on the surface, but paddling like crazy below the surface.
This emotional overload causes the brain to function primarily in the amygdala, the emotional part of our brain. With amygdala overload, we have difficulty accessing the neocortex. The neocortex, the cognitive part of our brain, is where our memory and senses are located, and this is the information interviewers need.
We know amygdala overload can result in limited and wildly inaccurate information. Over the course of days and weeks that pass since the incident, the victim, witness and even police officers emotionally calm down. Then a large volume of information becomes available that they were unable to retrieve at an earlier time, causing potential issues with written statements previously provided.
Overcoming this obstacle in a timely manner requires specific emotional intelligence skills, including a comprehensive emotional vocabulary, that reduces the overload in the amygdala. This reduction in emotional baggage subconsciously gives the interviewee permission to access the neocortex and gain full access to their memory, facilitating a credible and accurate statement.
Understanding and learning how to apply different aspects of the emotional intelligence skills is working smarter instead of harder before, during and after the interview. This also aids in empowering a victim/witness.
Watch a segment of training video discussing the importance of emotional intelligence during the interview process.