(3) Psychological Influences. Emotional disturbances, such as fear, anger,
worry, prejudice, or mental instability, may impair the functioning of a person's
senses and result in poor observation. The special agent must recognize this and
make allowance for them.
(a) The victim of a robbery may be in such fear of the weapon used, that
his recollection of the incident will be only that of the size of the bore of the
weapon and he will be unable to describe the perpetrator. Furthermore, he might be
expected to exaggerate the size of the bore.
(b) A witness may so dislike a person involved as to see only the
actions of that person and no others.
(c) A witness may be so prejudiced against a class or race of persons
that he will be inaccurate even though his senses recorded a true report of what
Specialized training may intensify power of observation.
However, often such training may tend to focus attention onto particular
For example, a dye chemist may quickly recognize the dye
used in a garment but fail to observe the form or state of repair of the garment.
A tailor, on the other hand, might observe the cut of the same garment but fail to
note the dye. A person with neither training may make a more accurate observation
of the same garment than either the chemist or the tailor.
a. Some witnesses may be able to give a concise and factual account without
your aid. However, in almost every case, you will need to ask questions to develop
details considered unimportant to the witness, to assist in evaluating and
interpreting his observations, or to settle discrepancies in his statements. While
you can do little to influence or mold witness observations, you can greatly aid
your investigation, through the use of skillful questioning techniques.
b. When obtaining a description, learn as much about the witness as is
possible within the limitations of time and urgency.
Consider the maze of
differences that may affect his interpretation of his observation. Determine what
might tend to cause him to withhold or distort details.
investigation, which the urgency of most cases will usually preclude, it may be
difficult to determine differences and influences. However, certain techniques may
be used to aid in determining the extent of these influences. Some of these are:
(1) Talking briefly with the witness prior to questioning may reduce his
apprehensions regarding your CID special agent methods, self-involvement, and
During the talk, you may discover traits which may influence his