Description: Think back over the past 10 days and then itemize everything you did, everywhere you went, everyone you saw, interacted with, for how long and how far apart were you during that interaction? Include every place or situation you encountered over that same period that involved groups of people. How many people? How close where they to you and for how long. Oh, and who were they? How well would you do at this task? How accurate would you be? Now what if some of what you did in that 10-day period was a bit sketchy in terms of any Covid social contact rules, requests or suggestions? What if YOU were the one asking the questions as part of your new job as a contact tracer trying to gather the sorts of data that have been identified as part of the most effective thing we can do (other than complete vaccination) to control and limit the spread of the Coronavirus? How would you engage with the people you are interviewing (likely by phone? What questions would you ask? How would you ask them? How would you describe the purpose of the interview to the person you are interviewing? What sorts of things would you try and avoid doing or saying? While there is a solid history of research looking at witnesses and witness interviewing there is actually not very much research at all on interviewing by contact tracers and on what sorts of questions asked in what sorts of ways produce the most complete, most reliable contact data, which is crucial to the efficacy of contact tracing. So, what sorts of things should good, valid, contact tracing interviewing involve? Have a look through the article linked below to see what Psychological research on human memory and cognition suggests we consider.
Source: Contact Tracing: A Memory Task with Consequences for Public Health, Maryanne, Garry, Lorraine Hope, Rachel Zajac et al., Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Date: January 16, 2020
Maybe it is just me, but I have found that when I have been reading research on eyewitness memory and testimony in the past it has seems a bit distanced from my own experience mainly because it either involves witnessing criminal activity or low frequency incidents like automobile collisions. As such, the faults, shortfalls and frailties of human (eyewitness) memory somewhat feel like other people’s problems. However, every single one of us (unless you are living alone in a cave of on a desert island) could be asked to answer a series of questions about our activities and whereabouts if we think we have or are thought to have been exposed to Coivid-19. Add to that the reality that effective, valid contact tracing does or could significantly flatten the current or future curves and asking and getting goo, complete as possible, answers to those questions matters even more. We need a Psychological science of contact tracing research and research informed practice, as soon as possible!
Questions for Discussion:
- Assuming that your recollection of everything you did and everyone you encountered over a 10-day period was not perfect (and it would NOT be) what sorts of errors or emissions would you make?
- What sorts of things can contact tracers do as part of their standard interviewing practice to optimize the data they collect from those they interview?
- Why can’t we just fix these problems with a decent tracking app?
References (Read Further):
Garry, M., Hope, L., Zajac, R., Verrall, A. J., & Robertson, J. M. (2020). Contact Tracing: A Memory Task With Consequences for Public Health. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1745691620978205. Link
Mosser, A. E., & Evans, J. R. (2019). Increasing the number of contacts generated during contact tracing interviews. Memory, 27(4), 495-506. Abstract Link
Eames, K. T., & Keeling, M. J. (2003). Contact tracing and disease control. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 270(1533), 2565-2571. Link
Gabbert, F., Hope, L., Carter, E., Boon, R., & Fisher, R. P. (2016). The role of initial witness accounts within the investigative process. Communication in investigative and legal contexts, 107-131. Link
Ferretti, L., Wymant, C., Kendall, M., Zhao, L., Nurtay, A., Abeler-Dörner, L., … & Fraser, C. (2020). Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing. Science, 368(6491). Link
Newton, C. (2020). Why Bluetooth Apps Are Bad at Discovering New Cases of COVID-19. The Verge, April, 10. Link