The virtual crime scene: Virtual reality context reinstatement as a means to increase the quality of eyewitness statements

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Purpose: Eyewitness statements often determine the direction and the success of police investigations. However, eyewitnesses’ recollection of events may become inaccurate or even incorrect over time. Moreover, eyewitnesses’ expressed confidence in the quality of their statements tends to be a rather weak indicator of actual quality. The current study explores how different types of context reinstatement compare in terms of quality of eyewitness statements and how they influence the confidence-quality relationship. Of particular interest is a new type of context reinstatement: virtual context reinstatement.
Methods: Participants (N = 98) were asked to take part in a group experiment in which an incident was staged. A week later, participants were subjected to virtual context reinstatement (VCR),physical context reinstatement (PCR), mental context reinstatement (MCR), or a no context reinstatement (control)procedure, and were subsequently asked to give an eyewitness statement.
Results: During free recall, eyewitness statements in both the VCR and PCR conditions contained significantly less confabulated details compared to statements of participants in the control group. During cued recall, participants in the VCR condition reported more correct details in their statements than participants in the MCR and PCR conditions. Moreover, VCR appears to result in a stronger confidence-quality relationship compared to the other types context reinstatement.
Conclusions: PCR and VCR showed fewest confabulated details in eyewitness statements and are therefore most beneficial to police investigations. The stronger confidence-quality relationship as a result of VCR can help to support the decision-making process of police investigators and other professionals who rely on eyewitness statements
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2023


  • Context reinstatement
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Virtual reality
  • Confidence
  • Quality
  • Accuracy


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