IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 1
Improving the Effectiveness of Suspect Interrogations
Christian A. Meissner
Iowa State University
Christopher E. Kelly
Saint Joseph’s University
Skye A. Woestehoff
University of Texas at El Paso
In press at the Annual Review of Law & Social Sciences.
Christian A. Meissner (corresponding author), Department of Psychology, Iowa State
University, firstname.lastname@example.org. Christopher E. Kelly, Department of Sociology and Criminal
Justice, Saint Joseph’s University, email@example.com. Skye A. Woestehoff, Department of
Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This review was supported by the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (J-FBI-10-
009). Statements of fact, opinion, and analysis in the paper are those of the authors and do not
reflect the official policy or position of the FBI or the US Government.
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 2
The last two decades of research on interrogation were spurred, in large part, by the specter of
false confessions and the resulting miscarriages of justice. More recently, interest in the topic has
been fueled by the need for developing evidence-based methods that improve the collection of
diagnostic confession evidence and accurate intelligence from human sources. In this review, we
update the research on false confessions and describe recent assessments of scientifically
validated approaches for obtaining cooperation, eliciting confessions, and detecting deceit.
Studies are summarized through the prism of accusatorial versus information-gathering
approaches to interrogation – the former rely upon psychological manipulation and control-based
methods, whereas the latter focus on developing rapport and cooperation to elicit an account that
can be strategically addressed via evidence presentation. The review concludes with
recommendations for additional research to further improve the effectiveness of interrogations
across a variety of contexts.
Keywords: interrogation, interviewing, confession, deception, credibility assessment
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 3
Improving the Effectiveness of Suspect Interrogations
For more than a century, legal scholars and social scientists have sought to understand the
incidence of false confessions in our criminal justice system leading to wrongful conviction of
the innocent (Bedau & Radelet, 1987; Borchard, 1932; Drizin & Leo, 2004; Münsterberg, 1908;
Wigmore, 1899). Empirical study on this issue has identified a variety of factors that produce
unreliable confession evidence, including certain characteristics that render individuals more
vulnerable to interrogation and the role of situational factors, including accusatorial tactics that
can lead an innocent person to confess. Research-based recommendations for reducing the
incidence of false confessions have emanated from this body of research (Kassin et al., 2010;
Lassiter & Meissner, 2010).
While law enforcement practices within the United States have been slow to change in
the wake of this research (Kelly & Meissner, 2015), recent public debate over the use of so-
called “enhanced interrogation techniques” has led the U.S. Government to begin evaluating its
interrogation practices. A study by the Intelligence Science Board (Fein, 2006) concluded that
current military, intelligence, and law enforcement interrogation practices lack any scientific
assessments of validity. In 2009, the Obama administration initiated the first federally-funded
research program on interrogation since the 1950s; now in its fifth year, the effort is beginning to
identify productive, evidence-based methods of interviewing suspects and is engaging federal
training facilities in both evaluations of current practice and the introduction of novel approaches
Other countries have responded in a more progressive manner – for example, several
high-profile cases involving false confessions led England and Wales to enact the Police and
Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act of 1984 (Home Office, 2003), which prohibited the use of
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 4
psychologically manipulative techniques and mandated the recording of custodial interrogations.
A subsequent national review initiated by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the
relevant government ministry led to development of the PEACE model of investigative
interviewing (Planning and Preparation; Engage and Explain; Obtain an Account; Closure; and
Evaluation; see Bull & Soukara, 2010; Clarke & Milne, 2001; Milne & Bull, 1999). Recent field
and laboratory evaluations of this information-gathering approach suggest that it can facilitate
true confessions and protect against the incidence of false confessions (Meissner et al., 2014).
In the current review, we provide an update on research assessing various factors that
lead to false confessions in the interrogation room (see Kassin, 2008). We then turn our attention
to more recent studies that have investigated the effectiveness of existing and novel approaches
to interrogation, including distinctions between accusatorial and information-gathering
approaches to interrogation and the various techniques the underlie them. We conclude the
review by identifying issues that require further research and offering recommendations for
advancing research in this area.
RESEARCH ON FALSE CONFESSIONS: DISPOSITIONAL AND SITUATIONAL
In 1982, George Allen Jr. was mistaken as the perpetrator of a sexual assault and
homicide. Despite realizing that Allen was not the suspect they had originally identified,
investigators engaged in an aggressive accusatorial interrogation that ultimately produced a false
confession. During the interrogation, the detective falsely claimed to have evidence against Allen
and convinced him that his only option was to confess to the crime. Allen had been previously
diagnosed with schizophrenia and claimed to have been intoxicated during the interrogation.
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 5
Despite being innocent of the crime and having no knowledge of the event, the detective scripted
Allen’s confession through the use of leading questions, prompting him to alter his statements
when they were inconsistent with case facts. Allen was ultimately (wrongfully) convicted based
upon his confession and was exonerated 30 years later (www.innocenceproject.org).
False confessions, which comprise nearly 30% of the first 325 wrongful convictions
identified by The Innocence Project, have been the subject of significant scientific scrutiny
(Kassin et al., 2010; Lassiter & Meissner, 2010), including archival analyses (Drizin & Leo,
2004; Leo & Ofshe, 1998; Garrett, 2015) and experimental investigations (Kassin & Kiechel,
1996; Russano, Meissner, Narchet, & Kassin, 2005). Taken together, the literature suggests that
both situational and dispositional risk factors can play an important role in producing false
Situational Risk Factors
In their review of 125 cases of proven false confession in the United States, Drizin and
Leo (2004) found that lengthy interrogations were common within the sample (see also Garrett,
2015; Malloy, Shulman, & Cauffman, 2014). Lengthy interrogations can lead to sleep
deprivation, impaired decision-making, and the desire to escape the situation (cf. Kassin et al.,
2010). People may focus on the immediate benefits of confessing (e.g., ending the interrogation),
perhaps without considering the long-term consequences (Madon, Guyll, Scherr, Greathouse, &
Wells, 2012; Madon, Yang, Smalarz, Guyll, & Scherr, 2013), with lengthy interrogations
exacerbating this tendency (Madon et al., 2013). Similarly, juveniles’ false confessions are
related to police refusals (e.g., to take a break; Malloy et al., 2014), suggesting that false
confessions may be motivated at least in part by certain immediate benefits such as ending the
interrogation (Gudjonsson, 2003).
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 6
An interrogator’s expectation that the suspect is guilty can also place innocent suspects at
risk. Before conducting an interrogation, investigators often attempt to evaluate a suspect’s
nonverbal behavior to determine whether they are being deceptive (Inbau, Reid, Buckley, &
Jayne, 2013). As discussed later, nonverbal behaviors are a poor indicator of deception (DePaulo
et al., 2003) and police officers, while confident in their decisions, are inaccurate at
differentiating deceptive and truthful suspects (Kassin, Meissner, & Norwick, 2005; Meissner &
Kassin, 2002). Thus, innocent suspects may be identified as deceptive and questioned by an
interrogator who holds a strong expectation regarding the suspect’s guilt (Kassin, 2005). This
expectation of guilt leads interrogators to use more guilt-presumptive interrogation techniques,
which increases suspects’ perceived pressure to confess (Hill, Memon, & McGeorge, 2008;
Kassin, Goldstein, & Savitsky, 2003) and ultimately produces a cycle of behavioral confirmation
that can lead to confession by the innocent (Narchet, Meissner, & Russano, 2011).
Certain accusatorial interrogation techniques, such as minimization and maximization,
have also been shown to increase the risk of false confession. Interrogators will often sympathize
with a suspect and attempt to minimize their perceptions of responsibility or blame by offering
face-saving excuses and justifications for the crime; at other times interrogators will exaggerate
the seriousness of the crime and present evidence that does not exist. Such techniques have been
shown to convey implicit promises of leniency and implicit threats of harsher punishment,
respectively (Kassin & McNall, 1991). While minimization and maximization techniques used in
conjunction have been shown to increase the likelihood of false confessions (Horgan, Russano,
Meissner, & Evans, 2012; Narchet et al., 2011), minimization may be particularly problematic
(Klaver, Lee, & Rose, 2008; Narchet et al., 2011; Russano et al., 2005).
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 7
The presentation of false evidence, a form of maximization, is another interrogation
technique that can produce false confessions. False evidence can induce innocent suspects to
confess when it is presented as a direct claim (Kassin & Kiechel, 1996; Nash & Wade, 2009;
Perillo & Kassin, 2011), when an insinuation (or “bluff”) is presented suggesting that the
evidence may exist (Perillo & Kassin, 2011), or when evidence is fabricated and presented to the
subject (Nash & Wade, 2009). Innocent suspects appear to confess in response to false evidence
because they believe that the evidence will ultimately prove their innocence (Perillo & Kassin,
2011) or because they come to believe they actually committed the crime (Kassin & Kiechel,
1996). Such internalized false confessions are more likely to occur when the evidence is
fabricated and presented to the subject (Nash & Wade, 2009), when the evidence is presented
with a delay after the incident, and when the evidence is presented more than once (Wright,
Wade, & Watson, 2013).
Dispositional Risk Factors
Certain characteristics of the suspect can also increase their risk to providing a false
confession. For example, certain individuals are more suggestible – they are more likely to
acquiesce to leading questions or change their answers in response to feedback from an authority
figure (Drake, 2010; Gudjonsson, 2013). Certain populations may also be particularly vulnerable
in an interrogation; for example, juveniles are more compliant with authority figures (Grisso et
al., 2003), and individuals with intellectual disabilities (Gudjonsson & Henry, 2003) or mental
illnesses (Gudjonsson, 2003) have been shown to be more suggestible. Innocence itself has also
been identified as a false confession risk factor (Kassin, 2005).
Archival analyses of false confessions (Drizin & Leo, 2004; Garrett, 2015), surveys
(Goldstein, Condie, Kalbeitzer, Osman, & Geier, 2003; Grisso et al., 2003; Gudjonsson,
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 8
Sigurdsson, Asgeirsdottir, & Sigfusdottir, 2006), and laboratory experiments (Candel,
Merckelbach, Loyen, & Reyskens, 2005; Redlich & Goodman, 2003) have shown that juveniles,
particularly those who are younger, are at increased risk to falsely confess. Juveniles are more
likely to falsely confess following the presentation of false evidence (Redlich & Goodman, 2003)
and frequently report that they falsely confessed to protect someone else (Malloy et al., 2014;
Viljoen, Klaver, & Roesch, 2005). One reason that age may be a risk factor is that juveniles are
more likely to comply with authorities and are less cognizant of the consequences of their
decisions (Grisso et al., 2003), favoring short-term benefits over long-term costs. Juveniles’
decisions tend to be motivated more by rewards, rather than risks (cf. Steinberg, & Scott, 2003),
leading many juvenile false confessors to believe they would be allowed to go home if they
confessed (Drizin & Leo, 2004).
Factors such as intellectual disability and mental illness can also lead to false confessions
(Clare & Gudjonsson, 1995; Redlich, Kulish, & Steadman, 2011). Individuals with intellectual
disabilities are more suggestible (Gudjonsson & Henry, 2003) and are likely to acquiesce to
leading questions or change their responses when an authority figure suggests they answered
incorrectly (Everington & Fulero, 1999; O’Connell, Garmoe, & Goldstein, 2005). False
confessions due to mental illness are often associated with anxiety and depression (Gudjonsson
et al., 2006), as well as the tendency to fantasize (Horselenberg et al., 2006) and difficulty in
differentiating fact from fiction (Gudjonsson, 2003; Leo, 2009).
Finally, individuals may be at increased risk for a false confession because of their
innocence. Innocent suspects believe that their innocence will be readily apparent to
interrogators (Kassin, 2005), which leads them to waive their Miranda rights and talk to the
police (Kassin & Norwick, 2004). Innocent suspects may also experience less stress during an
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 9
interrogation, suggesting that they do not feel as threatened by the situation (Guyll, Madon,
Yang, Lannin, & Scherr, 2013). However, interrogators have difficulty identifying innocence
(Kassin et al., 2005) and innocent suspects may actually experience harsher interrogations than
do guilty suspects – interrogators who believe that a suspect is guilty will employ more
interrogation techniques and conduct longer interrogations, placing greater pressure on the
innocent suspect to confess (Kassin et al., 2003; Narchet et al., 2011). In relenting to the demand
for a confession, innocent suspects may continue to believe that their innocence will be
recognized and assume that the evidence will later exonerate them (Perillo & Kassin, 2011).
THEORIES OF CONFESSION: PROCESSES THAT DISTINGUISH TRUE AND FALSE
Several theories have been proposed to account for why an individual may confess (see
Gudjonsson, 2003; Houston, Meissner, & Evans, 2014). Some are based upon internal processes
(e.g., Reik, 1959), while others also take into consideration situational factors (e.g., Gudjonsson,
2003; Hilgendorf & Irving, 1981). For example, Reik (1959) suggests that feelings of guilt result
from transgressions of societal or moral norms, and that this internal state is likely to produce
anxiety and discomfort. Confession of the transgression is therein believed to alleviate such
negative internal states. Decision-making models have also been developed, such as that first
proposed by Hilgendorf and Irving (1981). These accounts suggest that suspects subjectively
evaluate the cost-benefit ratio associated with confession based upon the variety of possible
actions currently available to them, the proximate and distal benefits and costs associated with
such actions, and the probabilities associated with such benefits and costs (cf. Gudjonsson, 2003;
Madon et al., 2012). Finally, other theories of confession focus upon the social pressure and
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 10
anxiety of the interrogation itself, particularly when suspects actively deceive the interrogator
with regard to their culpability. For example, Jayne (1986) argues that interrogators should
increase the anxiety experienced by a suspect during an interrogation to increase their discomfort
associated with being deceptive. A suspect’s decision to confess is then proposed to be
associated with a reduction in negative emotions. A cognitive behavioral model proposed by
Gudjonsson (2003) incorporates many of these theoretical perspectives. The model purports that
the likelihood of confession is influenced by the antecedents (e.g., isolation, emotional distress)
and consequences (both proximal and distal) associated with the action. In general, the model
addresses a variety of psychological, criminological, and situational factors that may lead to
confession, and offers predictions regarding factors that are likely to increase the likelihood of a
Although the theories of confession described above do not readily identify the
psychological processes leading to true vs. false confessions, recent research has begun to fill
this gap. For example, three surveys of incarcerated individuals have assessed the various
motivations leading to true and false confessions. In the first study, Sigurdsson and Gudjonsson
(1996) surveyed prisoners in Iceland and found that perceived pressure to confess, intimidation
by the interrogator, and fear associated with the consequences of not confessing were
significantly higher for false confessions. In contrast, true confessions were more likely to result
from a desire to relieve distress and feelings of guilt. Redlich and colleagues (2011) conducted a
similar survey with incarcerated adults in the U.S. who had been diagnosed with serious mental
illness. Consistent with prior work, Redlich et al. found that false confessions were related to
social pressure by the interrogator, as well as perceived short-term gains in confession (such as
terminating the interrogation), and perceived leniency in sentencing if they confessed. True
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 11
confessions, in contrast, were more likely to reference feelings of guilt, perceptions of the
strength of evidence, and beliefs that their responsibility for the crime would inevitably be
revealed. Finally, a recent survey by Malloy and colleagues (2014) assessed motivations to
provide true and false admissions in a sample of incarcerated youths in the U.S. (ages 14 to 17).
Their findings largely replicate that of previous adult samples, with false confessions emanating
from feelings of pressure and duress, perceptions of reduced consequences associated with
confession, and the desire to protect another individual. Lengthy interrogations also increased the
likelihood of a false confession. True confessions, on the other hand, were principally motivated
by feelings of guilt and a desire to behave honestly, though perceptions of police pressure were
As discussed below, laboratory studies have been conducted to assess the diagnostic
value of certain interrogative approaches in producing true vs. false confessions (cf. Russano et
al., 2005). These studies also frequently assess the psychological factors that lead a subject to
confess, including the anxiety experienced, beliefs regarding the consequences associated with
confessing (or not), perceptions of the evidence, feelings of guilt or remorse, and perceptions of
the pressure being placed upon them by the interrogator. In a meta-analysis of available
experimental studies, Houston, Meissner, and Evans (2014) largely replicated the pattern of
effects observed in prior survey studies: true confessions were significantly associated with
individuals’ feelings of guilt or remorse, perceptions of the strength of evidence, and beliefs
about the consequences of confession; false confessions were associated with the social pressure
being placed upon them by the interrogator and beliefs regarding the consequences associated
with not confessing.
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 12
Taken together, the available research provides support for the important role of
perceived consequences in yielding confessions – though such a factor appears to influence both
the guilty and innocent alike. Beyond this, it appears that true and false confessions may be
distinguished by the influence of internal (e.g., feelings of guilt or remorse) vs. external (e.g.,
social pressure emanating from the interrogator) psychological motivations, respectively. As
described below, these psychological factors may also be key to understanding the diagnostic
utility of interrogative approaches (cf. Horgan et al., 2012; Narchet et al., 2011).
MODERN INTERROGATION PRACTICES: WHAT APPROACHES ARE USED AND
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE THEY?
Interrogations conducted by professionals today are likely to include a mix of effective
approaches that yield valid information from a suspect, and those that are less effective and/or
more likely to produce evidence of false information. To ultimately understand the efficacy of
modern interrogative approaches, researchers must study the use of interrogative techniques in
vivo (i.e., in their naturalistic context) and further evaluate their findings in vitro (i.e., in a
controlled, experimental setting; see Dunbar & Blanchette, 2001). In the current section, we note
how social scientists have successfully undertaken both in vivo and in vitro research on
interrogation practices to evaluate the modern interrogation landscape. First, we describe a series
of in vivo approaches that include observational studies of real interrogations, as well as
structured interviews and representative surveys of interrogation professionals. These studies
seek both to understand the use of interrogative approaches and to assess the extent to which
certain techniques are effective in yielding confessions or admissions. Second, we describe in
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 13
vitro, experimental research that has assessed the causal influence of modern interrogative
approaches on true and false confessions.
We pause here to note that several frameworks have been offered to characterize modern
interrogative approaches. One primary distinction has been proposed between the use of
accusatorial approaches in North America and the development of information-gathering
approaches in the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere (Bull & Soukara, 2010; Meissner
et al., 2014). Key differences in the two methods lay in their approach to developing and
maintaining rapport, the use of psychological manipulation and theme development, and the
presentation of evidence. Other researchers have proposed a singular taxonomy to assess the use
of interrogative approaches across contexts – for example, Kelly, Miller, Redlich, and Kleinman
(2013) identified more than 70 unique interrogation techniques and sorted them into one of six
conceptual domains: rapport and relationship building, emotion provocation, context
manipulation, confrontation/competition, collaboration, and presentation of evidence. These
“meso-level” domains have been used by researchers to both describe the phenomenon of
interrogation and to assess the effectiveness of certain approaches. Based upon the Kelly et al.
domain, accusatorial approaches can be described as involving minimal rapport development and
collaboration, with a greater focus on emotion provocation and confrontation, and the use of
context manipulations that promote isolation and anxiety while presenting evidence in a manner
that overwhelms and “maximizes” a suspect’s perception of the interrogator’s belief in guilt.
Information-gathering approaches, in contrast, can be described as involving extensive rapport
development and collaboration approaches, a minimal degree of emotional provocation and
confrontation/competition, and the development of contexts that facilitate openness and
cooperation while presenting evidence in a more strategic, systematic manner to confront a
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 14
suspect’s claims. The efficacy of these are explored below via in vivo and in vitro
in vivo Studies of Modern Interrogation Practices
Accusatorial, confession-focused, approaches. As described above, accusatorial
interrogation strategies typically emphasize the domains of emotion provocation and
confrontation/competition in order to manipulate the suspect into offering a confession. The
earliest, and most frequently cited, in vivo studies focused their observations on those techniques
that were associated with false confessions. For example, Leo (1996) reported that techniques
related to the emotion provocation domain, including appeals to the suspect’s self-interest,
appeals to the suspect’s conscience, and use of moral justifications, were used frequently and
were associated with providing incriminating information. Feld (2013), in his study of 16- and
17-year old suspects, reported comparatively lower rates of emotion provocation techniques;
instead, Feld’s sample involved an increased use of confrontation/competition techniques such as
accusing the suspect of lying and urging the suspect to tell the truth. King and Snook (2009),
meanwhile, found that tactics related to both emotion provocation and confrontation/competition
were likely to result in full or partial confessions in a Canadian sample of adult suspects.
These observations of psychologically manipulative techniques are largely bolstered by
the seminal self-report survey of North American law enforcement interrogators conducted by
Kassin et al. (2007). Investigators in the sample reported that the techniques related to emotion
provocation and confrontation/competition – i.e., minimization and maximization – were among
those most frequently employed (e.g., appealing to self-interest, offering moral justifications).
More recently, expressly applying the domain framework to a survey of U.S. law enforcement
and military interrogators, Redlich, Kelly, and Miller (2014) found that emotion provocation was
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 15
the second most frequently used domain, while confrontation/competition was the least favored.
Interrogators’ perceptions of effectiveness largely followed this pattern across four interrogation
outcomes – intelligence gathering, confession and prosecution, tactical interrogation, and
strategic interrogation – and across three distinct interrogation vignettes where participants
selected techniques they might employ.
Presentation of evidence in accusatorial interrogations is typically conducted in a
confrontational manner – the evidence is generally presented by the interrogator in a monologue
designed to demonstrate the strength of the case against the suspect. Feld (2013) classified
confronting the suspect with evidence as a maximization technique, and the Kassin et al. (2007)
survey asked specifically about the use of bluffs and presentations of false evidence (such as
telling the suspect he/she failed a polygraph test). While observational research on the timing and
format of evidence presentation is lacking, nearly all observational and survey studies report
high levels of confronting suspects with evidence of guilt.
Assessments of rapport and relationship building in the context of accusatorial
interrogations have received relatively less attention. Several recent studies, however, have
reported promising findings on the use and importance of rapport even in an otherwise
accusatorial setting. For example, respondents to the Kassin et al. (2007) survey rated
establishing rapport as among the most frequently employed techniques, while investigators
responding to the Redlich et al. (2014) survey rated rapport and relationship building as the
most favored interrogation domain. A recent survey by Vallano, Evans, Schreiber Compo, and
Kieckhaefer (in press) focused exclusively on rapport-building techniques in a sample of U.S.
investigators and found broad support for the use of such techniques, including both verbal (e.g.,
establishing common ground) and nonverbal (e.g., displaying empathy) approaches.
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 16
With respect to the use of rapport and relationship-building tactics in practice, Kelly,
Redlich, and Miller (in press) conducted a content analysis on a U.S. sample of interrogation
recordings and found that most interrogators utilized such approaches. However, when
interrogations were disaggregated by whether or not the suspect confessed, those that ended with
the suspect denying involvement had the greatest emphasis on presentation of evidence, emotion
provocation, and confrontation/competition tactics. Not surprisingly, Kelly et al. reported
significant, positive correlations between these three domains, suggesting that evidence was
likely disclosed to suspects in an aggressive or manipulative manner.
In the U.S., Russano, Narchet, Kleinman, and Meissner (2014) conducted in-depth
interviews with a sample of U.S. military and intelligence interrogators, many of whom had
experience with high-value targets. Russano and colleagues applied the Kelly et al. (2013)
domain framework and reported that rapport and relationship-building and emotion provocation
were most frequently employed and perceived to be most effective when compared with
confrontation/competition. Although interrogators appeared to recognize and highlight the
importance of rapport, Russano and colleagues found less consensus among the interrogators
with respect to how it might be defined or specific tactics that might facilitate its development
with a subject.
Information-gathering approaches. Concurrent with research focusing on emotion
provocation and confrontation/competition methods in North America, a competing model of
interrogation has been developed in the United Kingdom that is more aligned with the domains
of rapport and relationship building, collaboration, and a more strategic form of presentation of
evidence. The PEACE model of investigative interviewing briefly described above (Baldwin,
1993; Milne & Bull, 1999; Williamson, 1993) came about as a result of several high-profile
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 17
miscarriages of justice in the United Kingdom (e.g., the “Guildford Four” and “Birmingham
Six”), and represents a repudiation of the accusatorial model of interrogation that focuses on
The first major evaluation of PEACE found that initial implementation of the model was
promising, if uneven, with improvements in giving suspects proper caution regarding their rights
and the increased use of open-ended questions (Clarke & Milne, 2001). Further, the PEACE
method is predicated on a robust supervision and training regime (Clarke, Milne, & Bull, 2011)
and “advanced interviewing” training (see Griffiths & Milne, 2006) that was based upon a
survey of British investigators that confirmed the need for specialized training and wide-spread
adoption of the tenants of the model (Soukara, Bull, & Vrij, 2002). While subsequent
observational studies found some slippage in it implementation, the non-coercive tactics
contained in the PEACE model are largely employed today (Soukara, Bull, Vrij, Turner, &
Cherryman, 2009; Walsh & Milne, 2008).
One of the more thorough examinations of the PEACE model involved interrogations of
benefits fraud suspects in the United Kingdom. Like previous studies, Walsh and Bull (2010a)
found that interrogators were apt to employ open-ended questions but were less skilled in other
areas of the model such as rapport building. In later analyses, they found that where the elements
of PEACE were properly demonstrated, such as the use of appropriate questioning, challenging
suspects accounts with evidence presentation, and adaptive questioning during the interview,
suspects were more likely to provide full accounts of their crimes (Walsh & Bull, 2010b) and
interviewers were able to overcome suspect denials (Walsh & Bull, 2012). Moreover, Walsh and
Bull (2012a) found that both confrontation/competition and emotion provocation techniques,
favored in accusatorial interrogations, were associated with suspects’ continued denials (see Bull
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 18
& Soukara, 2010, for more on “shifting” from denial to admission). Recently, Walsh and Bull (in
press) observed that a gradual method of evidence presentation across the interview resulted in
more complete accounts from suspects than either early or late full disclosure of the evidence.
The information-gathering approach is not the sole provenance of the United Kingdom,
however, and research emanating from other nations is finding support for rapport and
relationship building and collaboration in suspect interviews. Surveys of interrogation
professionals and evaluations of suspect interviews in Finland (Hakkanen, Ask, Kebbell, Alison,
& Granhag, 2009), Sweden (Holmberg & Christensen, 2002), and Australia (Kebbell, Alison,
Hurren, & Mazerolle, 2010; Powell, Day, Benson, Vess, & Graffam, 2014) have found a
preference for and effectiveness with a rapport-based approach. For instance, Holmberg and
Christensen’s study of individuals convicted of sex offenses found that a dominant attitude, or
approaches related to confrontation/competition such as demonstrating impatience or aggression,
was related to suspect denials. Alternatively, a humane approach, characterized by rapport and
relationship building techniques such as expressing empathy and a positive attitude toward the
suspect, produced higher levels of admissions. Very similar results were found among an
Australian sample of individuals convicted of sex crimes, including the relative ineffectiveness
of emotion provocation techniques (Kebbell et al., 2010).
Elsewhere, drawing upon interviews with police and military interrogators in Australia,
Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka, Goodman-Delahunty and colleagues
examined high-value interrogations in three novel yet interconnected ways. First, Goodman-
Delahunty, O’Brien, & Gumbert-Jourjon (2014) framed interrogation in procedural justice terms
where perceptions of the authorities’ legitimacy are based on the fair treatment of those subjected
to the authority. The researchers found that interrogators viewed rapport and relationship
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 19
building as an essential element to procedural justice objectives, which, in turn, led to favorable
outcomes such as eliciting reliable information. Second, Goodman-Delahunty and Howes (in
press) found that principles of persuasion (Cialdini, 2006) such as liking and reciprocity were
most closely associated with rapport and relationship building. Finally, Goodman-Delahunty,
Martschuk, and Dhami (2014) conducted interviews with interrogators and high-value detainees
for a unique perspective from both sides of the proverbial interrogation table. Similar to Kelly et
al.’s (2013) domains, Goodman-Delahunty et al. reduced interrogation methods to coercive and
non-coercive types of legalistic, physical, cognitive, and social strategies. They reported that
non-coercive social strategies that included rapport, procedural justice, and reciprocity
(constructs from the previous work) significantly increased information disclosure, and further
that rapport specifically had a large effect on early disclosure. Interestingly, and in line with the
findings reported by Kelly et al. (in press) regarding presentation of evidence, Goodman-
Delahunty et al. (2014) reported that evidence disclosure decreased suspect cooperation.
Unfortunately, the authors were unable to assess qualitative aspects related to the format of
evidence presentation in the sample of interrogations.
Perhaps the most complete evaluation of rapport and relationship building (and other
behaviors) was conducted by Alison et al. using the ORBIT model (Observing Rapport-Based
Interpersonal Techniques; Alison, Alison, Noone, Elntib, & Christiansen, 2013). Combining
fundamental elements of Motivational Interviewing (MI; Miller & Rollnick, 2009) from the
therapeutic counseling literature together with Leary’s (1955) interpersonal theories, Alison et al.
examined adaptive (positive) and maladaptive (negative) interactions between investigators and
suspects in a sample of UK counter-terrorism interrogations. The authors found that adaptive
interrogator behaviors – those based on rapport and principles of MI – were related to adaptive
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 20
suspect behaviors in the form of increased motivation and information yield. In a subsequent
analysis, Alison, Alison, Noone, Elntib, Waring, and Christiansen (2014) found that these same
adaptive interrogator behaviors significantly reduced suspects’ use of counter-interrogation
As demonstrated in our review of accusatorial and information-gathering approaches,
researchers have examined a broad spectrum of methods that are used to various degrees in the
field. Kelly et al.’s (2013) domain framework, however, provides a language with which the in
vivo studies can be more appropriately compared, and the research presented above suggests that
an approach based on rapport and relationship building, collaboration, and a non-coercive style
of presentation of evidence is more effective at eliciting confessions, suspects accounts, and
in vitro Studies of Modern Interrogation Practices
While in vivo studies of interrogation can offer a perspective on the likelihood that a
certain method will produce an admission or confession, field studies are ultimately unable to
establish the ground truth of a suspect’s statement. Such studies also suffer from issues of
internal validity in that they lack appropriate experimental controls (and in some cases
appropriate sampling methods) to establish causal conclusions. In contrast, in vitro studies
conducted under controlled, experimental conditions can offer causal determinations of both the
effectiveness of an interrogation method and the diagnostic value of the confession obtained. In
doing so, however, laboratory studies sacrifice a degree of external validity (Meissner, Hartwig,
& Russano, 2010). In response to this, researchers have developed creative paradigms that
preserve a high degree of experimental realism and invoke realistic consequences perceived by
participants to be of sufficient severity (e.g., Evans, Meissner et al., 2013; Kassin & Kiechel,
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 21
1996; Nash & Wade, 2009; Russano et al., 2005). Below we briefly review the available
experimental research assessing modern accusatorial and information-gathering interrogation
Accusatorial, confession-focused, approaches. Accusatorial approaches often involve
the development of interrogation themes that seek to minimize a suspect’s perceptions of their
own culpability and, therein, the consequences associated with confession. Such approaches also
involve the presentation of evidence, sometimes including false evidence or an insinuation
(“bluff”) of possible evidence, in a manner that seeks to maximize a suspect’s perceptions of
their guilt and engender a feeling that there is “no way out” of the situation – except to provide a
confession. When combined with context manipulations that lead a suspect to feel isolated and
“boxed-in”, accusatorial methods can prove quite successful in producing a confession (see
Meissner et al., 2014).
Experimental research on accusatorial approaches has demonstrated that certain
techniques, such as minimization tactics (Horgan et al., 2012; Klaver et al., 2008; Narchet et al.,
2011; Russano et al., 2005) and false evidence ploys (Horselenberg, Merckelbach, & Josephs,
2003; Horselenberg et al., 2006; Kassin & Kiechel, 1996; Klaver et al., 2008; Nash & Wade,
2009; Perillo & Kassin, 2011; Redlich & Goodman, 2003; Wright et al., 2013), can increase the
likelihood of a false confession from an innocent suspect. Across a sample of 14 experimental
studies, Meissner et al. (2014) observed that accusatorial approaches significantly increased the
likelihood of both true and false confessions when compared with a “direct questioning” control
condition. These studies also offer an opportunity to assess the psychological mechanisms
leading to confession – with findings suggesting that minimization tactics influence a suspect’s
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 22
perception of the consequences associated with confession, while maximization tactics increase
perceived social pressure from the interrogator (Horgan et al., 2012; Narchet et al., 2011).
Information-gathering approaches. Few studies have experimentally assessed the
potential for information-gathering approaches; the available literature, however, suggests that
such approaches can significantly improve the effectiveness and diagnostic value of confession
evidence. For example, Narchet et al. (2011) found that non-coercive, information-gathering
methods of interrogation preserved a high rate of true confessions while significantly reducing
the likelihood of false confessions when compared with approaches involving minimization and
maximization. Meissner and colleagues (see Meissner et al., 2010, 2014) directly assessed the
utility of information-gathering approaches (compared with accusatorial approaches); across two
studies, they found that information-gathering methods reduced the odds of a false confession by
74% and increased the odds of a true confession by 85%. A meta-analysis of these effect sizes
by Meissner et al. (2014) suggested that information-gathering approaches are significantly more
diagnostic – increasing the likelihood of true confessions and reducing the likelihood of false
confession – when compared with accusatorial approaches. A recent study by Evans, Meissner et
al. (2013) demonstrated that information-gathering approaches also significantly increase
admissions from the guilty, and increase the amount of critical details elicited. Taken together,
the available literature suggests that approaches that promote a rapport-based, collaborative
exchange and facilitate the reporting of details by the suspect can produce more effective and
diagnostic confession evidence.
ENHANCING THE INFORMATION-GATHERING APPROACH: A SCIENCE-BASED
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 23
In recent years, scholars have begun to shift their focus from assessing interrogation
methods that elicit false confessions to the development and validation of methods that yield
more diagnostic evidence and encourage information exchange. This positive, empirical
perspective has been grounded in psychological theory and has frequently involved collaboration
with interrogation professionals (Meissner et al., 2010). The tactics have largely been designed to
advance an information-gathering approach to interrogation, including methods that improve the
development of rapport and cooperation, interviewing approaches that facilitate accurate recall
from memory, and evidence disclosure techniques that are more strategic and diagnostic. These
approaches have also been shown to yield a corollary benefit – they improve assessments of
credibility in an interrogative context. In this section, we briefly review the latest science-based
approaches to interrogation and credibility assessment.
The development of rapport is an often cited and much celebrated aspect of modern
interrogation practice (Abbe & Brandon, 2013, 2014; Oxburgh & Ost, 2011; St-Yves, 2006;
Vallano & Schreiber Compo, 2015; Vanderhallen & Vervaeke, 2014). As noted previously,
surveys and interviews of law enforcement demonstrate wide support for the use of rapport and
relationship building approaches (Goodman-Delahunty et al., 2014; Kassin et al., 2007; Redlich
et al, 2014; Russano, Narchet, Kleinman, & Meissner, 2014; Vallano et al., in press), and these
methods are associated with confessions (Alison et al., 2013), more complete accounts (Walsh &
Bull, 2012), and reduced counter-interrogation strategies (Alison et al., 2014). Despite this
consensus, Russano and colleagues (2014) found that interrogators variously defined rapport as a
working relationship, the suspect simply being willing to talk, the development of trust, and
mutual respect; and their respondents offered a variety of perspectives on strategies that may
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 24
facilitate rapport, from treating the person kindly and humanely, to finding commonalities or just
getting the person to talk.
While various components of rapport have been assessed in the literature (see Vallano &
Schreiber Compo, 2015), the most notable theoretical model is that offered by Tickle-Degnen
and Ronsenthal (1990). The authors distinguish three (primarily behavioral) facets of rapport:
mutual attention (degree of engagement between the interactants), positivity (positive evaluations
of one another, including warmth, friendliness, respect, and liking), and coordination
(synchronicity of behavior between the interactants). Measurement scales such as the Working
Alliance Inventory (Horvath & Greenberg, 1989) and the Interaction Questionnaire (Vallano &
Schreiber Compo, 2011) have been used to evaluate the development of rapport in investigative
interviewing studies (see also, Duke, 2013). Assessments of verbal behavior, such as Language
Style Matching (Niederhoffer & Pennebaker, 2002), have also been used to measure
coordination aspects of rapport in interrogative contexts (Driskell, Blickensderfer, & Salas, 2013;
Richardson, Taylor, Snook, Conchie, & Bennell, 2014).
Specific tactics that facilitate rapport have also been described in the literature. Abbe and
Brandon (2014) offer the most complete taxonomy, focusing on seven tactics that have been
empirically validated, including:
• use of immediacy behaviors, such as leaning forward, engaging eye contact, and reducing
physical distance, that demonstrate interest and engagement;
• active listening skills, such as backchannel responses and paraphrasing (consistent with
Motivational Interviewing, see Alison et al., 2013; Miller & Rollnick, 2009), that convey
attention to the subject;
• verbal and nonverbal mimicry, which have been shown to facilitate trust;
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 25
• self-disclosure of personal information to promote liking and positivity;
• establishing common ground with respect to interests, identity, or attitudes, which can
promote liking and collaboration;
• engaging in continued contact and exposure to facilitate positivity; and finally
• identifying opportunities to contrast the behavior of the interactant, as subjects may also
feel greater comfort complementing the behavior of the interrogator.
Abbe and Brandon (2013) note that rapport tactics may invoke various principles of social
influence (Cialdini, 2006), operating via interest, identity, or relational motivations (Kelman,
2006). As noted previously, Goodman-Delahunty and Howes (in press) found that liking and
reciprocity were most closely associated with rapport and relationship building, while Goodman-
Delahunty et al. (2014) found that such social influence tactics significantly increased
information disclosure in a sample of high-value interrogations.
Recent experimental research has demonstrated that rapport tactics increase perceived
liking and positivity toward an interviewer (Kieckhaefer, Vallano, & Schreiber Compo, 2014;
Vallano & Schreiber Compo, 2011). Experimental studies on the value of rapport in adult
witness interviews suggest that rapport tactics can increase cooperation and reporting of accurate
information (Collins, Lincoln, & Frank, 2002; Holmberg & Madsen, 2014; Kieckhaefer et al.,
2014; Vallano & Schreiber Compo, 2011). Although few experimental studies have been
conducted to assess the role of rapport in an interrogative context, a recent study by Evans,
Houston, Meissner et al. (2014) explored the influence of emotional approaches on perceived
rapport and information disclosure – the authors found that positive emotional approaches, such
as positive affirmations, expressing interest, and instilling calm, significantly reduced anxiety
and increased feelings of rapport. Further, a positive emotional approach also significantly
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 26
strengthened the relationship between perceived rapport and the elicitation of information. While
the available evidence from in vivo studies of interrogation suggest the important role of rapport
in promoting cooperation and eliciting admissions from criminal suspects, further in vitro studies
are needed to understand the causal mechanisms that mediate the influence of rapport tactics.
Eliciting Information from Memory – The Cognitive Interview for Suspects
Interrogation training in the U.S., as well as other countries that rely upon accusatorial
approaches, rarely considers the importance of human memory and recall processes in the
elicitation of information from suspects; instead, any such training on memory elicitation is
relegated to interviewing cooperative witnesses, while the interrogation of suspects emphasizes
assessments of credibility and tactics that are likely to produce an admission of guilt (Fisher &
Perez, 2007; Leins, Fisher, Pludwinski, Rivard, & Robertson, 2014). Given the confirmatory and
confession-focused nature of accusatorial interrogations, the potential for memory contamination
and confabulation leading to false information or false admissions is rather significant (Garrett,
2015; Loftus, 2011; Shaw & Porter, 2015). In contrast, information-gathering approaches
encourage the use of open-ended, non-suggestive questioning tactics (Clark & Milne, 2001;
Walsh & Bull, 2010b). Interrogators are further trained to use good elicitation methods that
(when combined with rapport-based approaches) seek to elicit a complete narrative from the
suspect (Milne & Bull, 1999).
Over the past several decades, researchers have investigated a variety of mnemonic
approaches to improve the recollection of subjects in an investigative interview (Fisher, 2010;
Fisher & Perez, 2007). Likely the most studied interview protocol is the Cognitive Interview (CI;
Fisher & Geiselman, 1992). The CI was developed based upon theories of cognition and
memory, an appreciation for the social dynamics underlying an investigative interview, and an
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 27
understanding of communication patterns in forensic contexts (Fisher & Geiselman, 2010).
While the structure of the CI has developed over time based upon its empirical assessment, it
generally includes the following key elements:
• instruct subjects that they should play an active role in the interview by generating
information absent necessary prompting by the interviewer;
• encourage subjects to provide as much detail as possible based upon their memory, while
also discouraging them from guessing about details that are unclear or feeling as though
they must “fill in the gaps”; subjects should only report information that they can
• develop rapport with the subject and place them at ease with respect to the interview;
encourage them to engage in a cooperative exchange with the investigator;
• ask the subject to engage in mental context reinstatement by closing their eyes (to reduce
distraction) and recollecting the various sensory details associated with the event or
• require that the investigator primarily use open-ended questions and that she or he refrain
from interrupting the subject during the recall process;
• utilize witness-compatible questioning by engaging in active listening and structuring the
flow and type of questions to align with the subject’s recollections; this may include
allowing the subject to respond using non-verbal channels (such as drawing a sketch or
replicating the gait or behavioral interactions associated with the recollection); and
• following an initial free recall episode, offer the subject a variety of mnemonic
approaches or cues to facilitate recollection; for example, interviewers may ask the
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 28
subject to recall the details in reverse chronological order or to adopt a different
The CI has been shown to produce robust and replicable increases in recollection when
compared with standard interview approaches used by many law enforcement agencies – for
example, Rivard, Fisher, Robertson, and Mueller (2014) compared the CI to the U.S. Federal
Law Enforcement Training Center’s “five-step interview protocol” (which is trained to hundreds
of federal investigators each year), finding that the CI elicited approximately 80% more relevant
information than the five-step method while producing no significant differences in overall
accuracy of the information reported. Such results are consistent with the large, significant
increase in correct recall observed in the most recent meta-analysis of the CI literature conducted
by Memon, Meissner, and Fraser (2010).
While too few studies have investigated the specific components of the CI (Memon et al.,
2010), several facets of the interview protocol likely contribute to the robust increases in recall.
First, as described in the prior section, development of rapport has been shown to improve recall
from cooperative subjects (Collins et al., 2002; Holmberg & Madsen, 2014; Kieckhaefer et al.,
2014; Vallano & Schreiber Compo, 2011). Second, communication aspects of the CI are critical
to encouraging subjects to report details, even when they believe they are unimportant – for
example, Leal, Vrij, and colleagues (2015) demonstrated that providing a detailed, unrelated
narrative (“model statement”) to the subject prior to their providing an account significantly
increased the recall of details by truthful subjects. Finally, the mnemonics incorporated into the
CI are very effective in eliciting additional information; Leins, Fisher, and colleagues (2014)
found that such mnemonic prompts doubled the amount of information recalled when compared
with unaided free recall.
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 29
The CI aligns quite well within an information-gathering framework, and in fact the CI is
trained as an advanced interviewing skill within the UK’s “tiered” system (Fisher, Milne, & Bull,
2011). Geiselman (2012) has offered a version of the CI “for Suspects” – as described below,
Geiselman and others (see Sooniste, Granhag, Strömwall, & Vrij, in press) have demonstrated
that the protocol promotes an important corollary benefit in facilitating the discrimination of
truth and deception. Further, recent experimental research suggests that inclusion of CI
components can facilitate the collection of guilty knowledge and key admissions in an
interrogative context (Evans, Meissner 2013), and aid the recollection of sources in a human
intelligence context (Leins et al., 2014).
Presenting Evidence to Motivate an Admission
Research has consistently demonstrated that a suspect’s perception of the evidence
against them is an important motivational factor that predicts true confessions (Horgan et al.,
2012; Houston et al., 2014; Moston, Stephenson, & Williamson; 1992; Redlich et al., 2011);
however, the presentation of false evidence has also been shown to produce false confessions
(Nash & Wade, 2009; Perillo & Kassin, 2011). Studies have also suggested that the method of
evidence presentation may be critical. For example, evidence presentation formats differentiate
accusatorial and information-gathering approaches – whereas investigators from an accusatorial
framework often utilize evidence to overwhelm the subject and seek an admission or confession
(including the exaggeration or presentation of false evidence), investigators from an information-
gathering framework present evidence to identify contradictions in the subject’s account. A
further distinction regards the manner in which evidence is temporally presented, with
confession-seeking approaches generally preferring a concurrent “monologue” and information-
gathering approaches preferring the presentation of evidence gradually over time (Walsh & Bull,
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 30
in press). Experimental research has also demonstrated that late disclosure of strong evidence is
most likely to produce a confession (Sellers & Kebbell, 2009), and that an awareness of possible
evidence that could be disclosed by the interrogator increases the extent to which guilty
participants offer more critical disclosures (Luke, Dawson, Hartwig, & Granhag, 2014).
Hartwig and colleagues (Hartwig, Granhag, Stromwall, & Doering, 2010; Hartwig,
Granhag, Stromwall, & Vrij, 2005; for a review, see Hartwig, Granhag, & Luke, 2014) have
proposed that appropriate disclosure of evidence can be effective due to its influence on a
suspect’s information management strategy – if a suspect initiates a cooperative exchange, they
will seek to maintain an appearance of credibility; and if critical information must be protected,
they are likely to engage in either avoidance strategies or denials until such time as it might be
impossible to do so. The authors’ “Strategic Use of Evidence” (SUE; Hartwig et al., 2005, 2014;
see also, Dando & Bull, 2011) approach seeks to initially gain the cooperation of the subject and
to elicit an open-ended narrative. After the subject has committed to an account, evidence
disclosure strategies can be used to strategically confront the subject. Taken together, this
research suggests that:
• late disclosure of evidence is superior to early disclosure;
• disclosure of stronger evidence is more effective than weaker evidence; and
• gradual disclosure of evidence appears to be more effective than a single disclosure
monologue, particularly if the interrogator moves systematically from weaker to stronger
Assessing Credibility – Cognitive-Based Interviewing Approaches
The current science-based perspective on interrogations suggests that information-
gathering approaches, including those that facilitate rapport, seek to enhance memory, and
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 31
strategically disclose evidence, are more likely to yield critical information from suspects. These
methods of elicitation also produce a corollary benefit – they can facilitate assessments of
credibility in the interrogation booth (for reviews see Granhag, Vrij, & Verschuere, 2015; Vrij,
Accusatorial and information-gathering approaches differ rather significantly in their
perspective on deception: while accusatorial methods focus on non-verbal and paraverbal cues
associated with anxiety, information-gathering methods prioritize verbal or cognitive cues to
deception associated with the manner in which subjects tell their story. In the most
comprehensive meta-analysis to date, DePaulo et al. (2003) observed that behavioral and
paraverbal cues to deception are quite faint; however, a majority of the most reliable indicators
involved cognitive cues to deception that relate to the way in which individuals recall an event.
Not surprisingly, a recent meta-analysis of the training to detect deception literature observed
that training individuals to recognize cognitive cues to deception led to significantly better
performance on a subsequent detection task when compared with training on non-verbal or
paraverbal cues (Hauch, Sporer, Michael, & Meissner, 2014).
Given the potential for cognitive cues to improve the discrimination of liars and truth tellers,
researchers have explored the manner in which interviewing approaches might magnify these
differences and therein facilitate detection (Vrij & Granhag, 2012, 2014). Studies suggest that
information-gathering approaches can prove more cognitively demanding (Vrij, Mann, & Fisher,
2006) and produce more verbal or cognitive cues to deception (Vrij, Mann, Kristen, & Fisher,
2007) when compared with accusatorial methods. Notable examples of interviewing approaches
that facilitate the detection of deception include:
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 32
• using the Cognitive Interview to elicit accounts (Geiselman, 2012; Sooniste et al., in
press), including mnemonics such as reverse order recall (Evans, Michael, Meissner, &
Brandon, 2013; Vrij et al., 2008) and encouraging detailed recall via a model statement
(Leal et al., 2015); such tactics reveal differences in the details reported and the cognitive
operations of liars and truth tellers;
• asking unanticipated questions, such as spatial/temporal information or a request to draw
a sketch (Leins, Fisher, Vrij, Leal, & Mann, 2011; Vrij et al., 2009), to induce greater
verbal inconsistency and variation in details reported; and
• disclosing evidence in a strategic manner, including late (rather than early) disclosure of
evidence following a narrative recall by the subject (Hartwig et al., 2005) and the gradual
disclosure of evidence over time (Dando & Bull, 2011) to reveal greater statement-
evidence inconsistencies in liars.
A recent training validation of this cognitive-based approach to deception detection suggested
that interrogators could be trained to employ the methods, and that use of the methods both
enhanced the elicitation of information and facilitated the discrimination of liars and truth tellers
(Vrij, Leal, Mann, Vernham, & Brankaert, in press). Hartwig and colleagues have also
demonstrated that strategic evidence disclosure techniques can be effectively trained, and that
use of the approach can significantly improve deception detection performance (Hartwig,
Granhag, Stromwall, & Kronkvist, 2006).
LOOKING FORWARD: DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
Shortly after his inauguration in 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13491
that created a Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies to “establish a
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 33
specialized interrogation group to bring together officials from law enforcement, the U.S.
Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense to conduct interrogations in a manner
that will strengthen national security consistent with the rule of law”. In August of that same
year, the Task Force recommended that a new interagency collaboration be formed, called the
High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG). In addition to its operational duties, the HIG
was tasked with creating a program of research to evaluate best practices in lawful interrogation.
Since that time, researchers from the United States, Europe, Australia and elsewhere have been
working to fulfill the Task Force’s mandate and a “science of interrogation” has begun to emerge
(Brandon, 2014). While the HIG’s operational mandate is primarily aimed at the collection of
human intelligence (HUMINT) in a national security context, many of the techniques developed
and assessed by researchers have been shown to be applicable to law enforcement contexts as
well (Evans, Meissner, Brandon, Russano, & Kleinman, 2010; Hartwig, Meissner, & Semel,
2014; Redlich, 2007). For example, a recent survey demonstrated that across a variety of
interrogation methods, outcomes, and scenarios, few differences emerged between law
enforcement and HUMINT interrogators on the techniques perceived as most effective (Redlich
et al., 2014; see also Neuman & Salinas-Serrano, 2006; Russano, Narchet, Kleinman, &
Meissner, 2014). Nevertheless, future research is needed to consider how the various settings,
goals, and outcomes of an interrogation may lead to important differences in the effectiveness of
interrogative approaches across law enforcement, military, and intelligence operations.
A comprehensive understanding of modern interrogation also requires that we consider
cultural and linguistic issues. For example, a subject’s cross-cultural perspective could influence
the effectiveness of certain interrogative approaches (e.g., Beune, Giebels, & Sanders, 2009;
Beune, Giebels, & Taylor, 2010). Interpreters may also play an important and understudied role
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 34
in the effectiveness of interrogations (Russano, Narchet, & Kleinman, 2013), from the elicitation
of information, to the development of rapport and assessments of credibility (e.g., Ewens, Vrij,
Leal, Mann, Jo, & Fisher, 2014). Further, differences in language fluency may also influence the
efficacy of certain approaches to credibility assessment (e.g., Evans, Michael, Meissner, &
Brandon, 2013; Da Silva & Leach, 2013).
Of the six domains from Kelly et al.’s (2013) taxonomy discussed in the present review,
one in particular – context manipulation – clearly requires additional consideration by
researchers. The physical space where an interrogation is conducted is often described in major
training manuals (e.g., Inbau et al., 2013), including the size of the room, and the type of
furnishings it should and should not contain. Indeed, Kassin et al. (2007) reported that two of the
most common techniques from their survey involved isolating the suspect from friends and
family and conducting the interrogation in a small room. These conditions are often intended to
exert control over the suspect and to instill a sense of hopelessness. Yet, contextual priming
could also act to facilitate openness, develop rapport, promote honest and accountable responses,
or enhance feelings of guilt or remorse (cf. Klauer & Musch, 2003) – factors that could increase
the effectiveness of information-gathering approaches and further lead to diagnostic outcomes.
Finally, we close by noting that the study of interrogation methods, approaches, tactics,
techniques, and procedures will benefit from greater interaction between foundational theory in
the psychological and social sciences, and its assessment and application in both in vivo (real
world) and in vitro (laboratory) contexts (cf. Lane & Meissner, 2008). In addition, training
studies must be developed to ensure the efficacy and integrity of methods as they are “given
away,” and experimental field studies must be coordinated to ultimately demonstrate the
effectiveness of science-based methods when compared with current practices. Facilitating a
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 35
successful transition from research to practice will ultimately require open dialogue, the
development of trust, and productive collaborations between scientists and practitioners.
IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS 36
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