Lab

Applied Cognition Laboratory

About the lab

Researchers in our laboratory apply basic theory in cognition and use experimental research designs to assess a variety of real-world phenomena. Our team includes collaborators with significant professional experience in the law enforcement, military, and intelligence communities, and our research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, and the U.S. Intelligence Community. To learn more about our research findings, visit https://appcoglab.psych.iastate.edu.

Featured research (9)

This chapter describes the important research-to-practice contributions of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) - a U.S. interagency group comprised of personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency. To date, the HIG has supported more than a decade of research on approaches to investigative interviewing, interrogation, and credibility assessment, ultimately leading to the first science-based training curriculum for federal, state, and local law enforcement, military, and intelligence personnel. The etiology, development, and accomplishments of the research program are described, including the impact of the HIG on training and practice in the U.S.
Interviewing and interrogation practices have evolved over the past century. “Third degree” methods of physical and psychological coercion were replaced by psychologically-manipulative tactics that seek a confession; however, it was not until instances of false confession that led to wrongful conviction came to light that investigative interviewing begin to transition from accusatorial methods to science-based approaches. In this chapter, we review the coercive interrogation methods of the past and their influence on false confessions. We then explore science-based interviewing, discussing the benefits of productive questioning tactics, memory-based tactics, rapport-based approaches, strategic presentation of evidence, and strategic questioning to assess credibility. To conclude, we discuss the need for collaborations between practitioners and researchers as the field shifts to a comprehensive science-based interviewing model.
Investigative interviews are an essential tool for any criminal investigation and are conducted across a variety of contexts and subject populations. In each context, key psychological processes function to regulate communication between an interviewer and a subject – from developing rapport and trust, to facilitating memory retrieval, to assessing credibility. Over the past 50 years, research on investigative interviewing has dramatically increased to include assessing cooperative interviews with witnesses/victims, interviews with more resistant suspects and sources, and interviewing to detect deception. We review the various topics that have been examined and discuss three fundamental challenges to eliciting the truth: (i) investigative biases, (ii) the frailty of human memory, and (iii) resistance to providing information. We then introduce a model of science-based investigative interviewing that encompasses both relational and informational tactics shown to be effective in developing rapport and trust, eliciting accurate information, and facilitating judgments of credibility. Finally, we discuss the policy and practice implications of this research, including recent efforts at reform around the world.
Rapport-based approaches have become a central tenet of investigative interviewing with suspects and sources. Here we explored the utility of using rapport-building tactics (i.e., self-disclosure and interviewer feedback) to overcome barriers to cooperation in the interviewing domain. Across two experiments using the illegal behaviors paradigm (Dianiska et al., 2019), participants completed a checklist of illegal behaviors and were then interviewed about their background and interests (the interpersonal interview) as well as about their prior participation in an illegal act (the illegal behavior interview). During the interpersonal interview, we manipulated whether the participant’s disclosure was unilateral or reciprocal (Experiment 1; N = 124), and whether the interviewer self-disclosed and/or provided the participant with verifying feedback in response to the participant’s disclosures (Experiment 2; N = 210). Participants were then asked to provide a statement about the most serious illegal behavior to which they had admitted. For both experiments, participants provided more information about the prior illegal act when the interviewer provided information about themselves. Further, there was a significant increase in the amount of information elicited from the participant when the interviewer highlighted similarity with the participant. In line with prior work, we found support for an indirect relationship between the use of rapport-building tactics and disclosure that was mediated by the participant’s perception of rapport and their decision to cooperate.

Lab head

Christian A. Meissner
Department
  • Department of Psychology
About Christian A. Meissner
  • Dr. Meissner is Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University, where he Directs the Applied Cognition Laboratory. He holds a Ph.D. in Cognitive & Behavioral Science from Florida State University (2001). His research uses experimental methodologies to examine cognitive psychological processes in forensic, military, and human intelligence settings, including strategies and tactics that facilitate the disclosure of information and the assessment of credibility in interviews and interrogations, factors that influence eyewitness memory and lineup identification, the influence of extra-legal biases on juror decision-making, and aspects of human perception and judgement bias in comparative forensic science decisions.

Members (14)

Amelia Mindthoff
  • Iowa State University
Kyle Susa
  • California State University, Bakersfield
Laure Brimbal
  • Texas State University
Rachel E. Dianiska
  • University of California, Irvine
Stephen Michael
  • Whitman College
Jessica K Swanner
  • Iowa State University
Fadia Narchet
  • University of New Haven
Skye A. Woestehoff
  • Coastal Carolina University
Justin S. Albrechtsen
Justin S. Albrechtsen
  • Not confirmed yet
Allyson J. Horgan
Allyson J. Horgan
  • Not confirmed yet
Ryann M Haw
Ryann M Haw
  • Not confirmed yet
Julia R. LaBianca
Julia R. LaBianca
  • Not confirmed yet

Alumni (3)

Melissa B. Russano
  • Roger Williams University
Kate Houston
Kate Houston
Jacqueline R. Evans
  • Florida International University