Is “TEDS PIE” On Your Menu For Cognitive Interviewing?

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As an OIS investigator, you may find a serving of TEDS PIE to be helpful when you’re taking statements about a shooting from involved officers and witnesses.

That acronym is offered as a questioning tool by Dr. Edward Geiselman, co-developer of the cognitive interviewing technique and a faculty member for the Force Science Certification Course. The letters stand for various prompts you can use to probe deeper into a subject’s memories.

As you know from previous Force Science News transmissions, cognitive interviewing is a method for gathering descriptive recollections of an event by encouraging an uninterrupted, free-flowing narrative from the person being questioned. In contrast to the stereotypical interrogation approach, the subject in a cognitive interview does about 80% of the talking, while the investigator speaks only about 20% of the time, primarily by posing open-ended questions that keep the interviewee supplying needed, detailed information.

“Closed-ended questions require only short answers and can signal to the officer or witness that his or her role is to speak only when spoken to during the interview. This can stifle meaty responses,” explains Geiselman, a psychology professor at UCLA. “Responses to open-ended questions tend to be more extensive and are more likely to be accurate.”

During the subject’s “grand narrative,” Geiselman says, the cognitive interviewer notes areas that require follow up when the initial story is concluded. “The strategy then is to ask the interviewee to focus his memory and elaborate about one segment of the narrative at a time.

“This follow-up questioning begins with your asking an open-ended question: ‘Can you tell me more about…’ whatever element of the grand narrative–people, places, objects, conversations, etc.–you want to explore in greater depth at that moment.

“The problem is that if you ask this same question over and over as you move through the various sections you want to follow up on, the interview may begin to seem stilted, stale, and predictable, and the subject may become annoyed, fatigued, or disinterested.”

That’s where TEDS PIE comes in.

It’s a means of prefacing follow-up questions that Geiselman says he learned from investigators with the London Metro Police, an agency that has worked on a number of research projects with the Force Science Institute.

TEDS stands for:
  • “Tell me…”
  • “Explain to me…”
  • “Describe for me…”
  • “Show me….”
PIE stands for:
  • “Precisely…”
  • “In detail…”
  • “Exactly….”

“By pairing a term from TEDS with a term from PIE, you have a different way of introducing the same open-ended question as you go through the segments you want the interviewee to expand on,” Geiselman says. “You’re still making the same inquiry repeatedly, but it doesn’t appear that way to the subject.”

As a reminder of the effectiveness of cognitive interviewing, he adds: “Truthful subjects generally like answering open-ended questions and will work hard to mine their memories for as full an account as possible. Not so much those subjects who need to be deceptive. Overwhelmingly, they prefer closed-ended questions that let them get by with abbreviated statements.”

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