ISU Researcher Develops DIY Contact Tracing

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AMES, IOWA — It started as a way to help crime investigators. ISU Psychology Professor Christian Meissner works to help do better interviews by helping people recall more information.

“The bulk of the research that I’ve done has to do with forensic applications,” said Meissner. “Interviewing witnesses of crimes for example working with the intelligence community to improve how they interview people.”

The program is called COG-Tracer, it’s a web-based application that helps people to basically interview themselves.

“What we’ve developed is really a protocol that can be used to help people remember who they been with where they been and what would be considered close contacts in the contact tracing interview context,” said Meissner. “Kind of a do it yourself interview if you will where people are able to take them selves through the interview process and be guided in the process of remembering things, and what we found was that we can number one we can improve the number of contacts that people remember by fifty percent.”

The process also can feature techniques which get help to improve recall.

“One way that we can help you remember is to take you back mentally to that meeting that you had so I want you to imagine having traveled there remember where you were what was the room like what was the area like,” said Meissner. “On average in the standard group people remembered about eight to contacts that they had, so when we apply these cognitive principles they remember on average four more contacts, that’s four more people that they wouldn’t of remembered otherwise.”

There is no charge for COG-Tracer and it does not store any information. That is written down by the user. It is not meant to replace public health, but rather assist those who want to start contact tracing as early as possible.

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