Mental time travel ability and the mental reinstatement of context for crime witnesses.

J.H Smith-Spark, J. Bartimus, Rachel Wilcock

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Mental time travel ability marks how well the phenomenological aspects of events are mentally re-experienced during recall. The Cognitive Interview (CI) elicits eyewitness information. One of its techniques, Mental Reinstatement of Context (MRC), asks eyewitnesses to reinstate the incident's context mentally before recall. Fifty-six participants watched a simulated crime video. Self-report measures were then taken to estimate general mental time travel ability. Participants were questioned subsequently about the video. Eyewitness performance under MRC was compared with the CI's Report Everything (RE) technique, wherein eyewitnesses recall everything they can but with no invitation to mentally reinstate the context. There was no effect of interview condition on accuracy of recall; however, general mental time travel ability was positively associated with the amount of correct and incorrect information produced under MRC, but not RE, conditions. This is the first empirical demonstration that MRC instructions engage the mental time travel capacities they purport to.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2016


  • Eyewitness memory
  • Cognitive Interview
  • Mental time travel

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