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Interrogation and Investigative Interviewing in the United States: Research and Practice



In this chapter, the authors frame their review of American interrogation practices with a brief history of how control-based, accusatorial methods became the hallmark of law enforcement interrogation in the United States. The most popular training manuals and courses, such as the Kinesic Interview, the Reid Technique, and Wicklander-Zulawski and Associates, tend to focus on the psychological manipulation of suspects in order to elicit confessions. The research conducted on American interrogation practices reviewed in this chapter supports the notion that police investigators regularly do, in fact, employ these techniques (though not exclusively). These practices are then examined in light of the growing body of experimental research that has found such an accusatorial approach to interrogation to be less effective at eliciting true confessions from criminal suspects when compared with other rapport-based elicitation models. The authors conclude the chapter with a look to a future of American interrogation, across law enforcement, military, and human intelligence (HUMINT) contexts, that is based on scientific validation and assessment.
Interrogation and Investigative Interviewing in the United States: Research and Practice
Christopher E. Kelly, Ph.D.
St. Joseph’s University
Christian A. Meissner, Ph.D.
Iowa State University
history of how control-based, accusatorial methods became the hallmark of law enforcement
interrogation in the United States. The most popular training manuals and courses, such as the
Kinesic Interview, the Reid Technique, and Wicklander-Zulawski and Associates, tend to focus
on the psychological manipulation of suspects in order to elicit confessions. The research
conducted on American interrogation practices reviewed in this chapter supports the notion that
police investigators regularly do, in fact, employ these techniques (though not exclusively).
These practices are then examined in light of the growing body of experimental research that has
found such an accusatorial approach to interrogation to be less effective at eliciting true
confessions from criminal suspects when compared with other rapport-based elicitation models.
The authors conclude the chapter with a look to a future of American interrogation, across law
enforcement, military, and human intelligence (HUMINT) contexts, that is based on scientific
validation and assessment.
In a country as large and diverse as the United States and one with a decentralized
criminal justice system, it would be nearly impossible to have an accurate census of investigative
interviewing and interrogation practices of all – or even most – American law enforcement
agencies. Interrogators across the nearly 18,000 local and state agencies (Reaves, 2011) who
conduct the vast majority of criminal investigations operate through some combination of formal
and on-the-job training. The formal training that interrogators receive can range from a few
hours of in-house training to popular third party, multi-day courses such as the Kinesic Interview
(Walters, 2003), the Reid Technique (Inbau, Reid, Buckley, & Jayne, 2013), or Wicklander-
Zulawski & Associates (Zulawski, Wicklander, Sturman, & Hoover, 2001). Even at the federal
level, there exists a modicum of standardization across agencies, with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation hosting its own training operations at Quantico, Virginia, while other agencies
participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
(FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia.
Unlike other countries that have standardized training and
practices in investigative interviewing and interrogation, a uniform American system of
interrogation is difficult, at best, to identify.
As problematic as it is to be precise (and concise) about American investigative
interviewing and interrogation, however, the adversarial nature of the criminal justice system is
the common thread running through the various law enforcement agencies in the United States.
This adversarial model of criminal justice naturally leads to an accusatory model of interrogation
(Leo, 2008), in which extracting confessions is given primacy and a presumption of guilt
determines the onset of an interrogation (Meissner, Redlich, Michael, Evans, Camilletti, Bhatt,
Brandon, in press). It is by no means universal among American police, but the accusatory model
of interrogation is based on psychological manipulation that replaced physical coercion or the so-
called “third degree” (Kassin, Drizin, Grisso, Gudjonsson, Leo, & Redlich, 2010; Leo, 2008).
Other hallmarks of the accusatorial model include establishing control over the suspect, using
closed-ended questions that confirm what the interrogator already believes to be true, and
judging deceit based upon the suspect’s level of anxiety (Meissner et al., in press).
The earliest codification of the psychologically manipulative methods of the accusatorial
model was in W. R. Kidd’s (1940) Police Interrogation manual, though many of the tactics
continue to be taught and practiced in contemporary American interrogation. In generic terms,
interrogation can be seen as the successive use of three tactics that are geared toward inducing
the suspect to confess: isolation, confrontation / maximization, and minimization (Kassin &
Gudjonsson, 2004). First, the suspect is left alone prior to questioning in a small room to
contemplate the impending interrogation. Next, interrogators present evidence implicating the
suspect in the crime, not allowing him to deny the accusations, and foretelling the consequences
of non-cooperation. The goal here is to overwhelm the suspect and to maximize his perception of
his culpability and the likely consequences therein. In the final step, the interrogator takes a
This is to say nothing of the country’s human intelligence (HUMINT) apparatus, though an Executive Order
commanding all federal-level interrogators to conform to the standards of the Army Field Manual 2-22.3 was issued
by President Obama in January 2009.
softer approach, offers explanations for the crime that are more favorable to the suspect and that
may minimize both the perception of his culpability and the likely consequences that would
follow. Together, the methods described here create conditions favorable to the police
interrogator to achieve the goal of obtaining a confession; however, the methods also leave the
suspect vulnerable to being coerced into giving a false confession (Kassin et al., 2010; Meissner
et al., in press).
A related – but no less critical – factor in the shift from physically abusive to
psychologically manipulative methods in American interrogation was the landmark Miranda v.
Arizona (1966) decision (Leo, 1992). In Miranda, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the rights of
custodial suspects against self-incrimination and imposed upon the police the well-known
requirement of reminding suspects of said rights prior to questioning. In the years following the
decision, the law enforcement community (and adherents to more conservative crime control
measures generally) argued that the new rules would hamstring police investigations. These fears
have proven unfounded, as research has consistently demonstrated that suspects overwhelmingly
waive their Miranda rights and offer admissions and confessions (Cassell & Hayman, 1996;
Feld, 2012; Kassin, Leo, Meissner, Richman, Colwell, Leach, & La Fon, 2007; Leo, 1996a). A
compelling reason for this is that police quickly became adept at delivering the warning and
convincing suspects that it is in their best interests to waive their rights (White, 2001).
The American model of accusatorial interrogation is sharply contrasted with the
information gathering approach most associated with police in the United Kingdom. Whereas
American police interrogations are guilt presumptive, confrontational, and rely heavily on
psychological manipulation (including the disallowing of denials), systems in the United
Kingdom and elsewhere rely on information gathering techniques that do not presume guilt, that
establish rapport and use principles of investigative interviewing that allow the suspect to freely
offer his or her account, and that present evidence in a strategic manner (Meissner et al., in
press). The information gathering interviewing strategy, also known as the PEACE model
(Planning and preparation; Engage and explain; Account; Closure; Evaluation; Clarke & Milne,
2001), was developed in an attempt to curtail miscarriages of justice brought on by coercive and
accusatorial methods (see AUTHOR, this volume, for much more information on PEACE).
The current chapter on American interrogation begins with a focus on the descriptive and
observational research of contemporary interrogation in the United States. We then analyze these
practices in light of what is known to be the most effect methods of investigative interviewing
and interrogation. In the final portion of the chapter we examine training practices in the United
States, with a focus on accusatorial methods, and then look to the future of American
interrogation. We conclude with an observation that American interrogation is at a crossroads
with regard to the practice of interrogation and the nascent, but perhaps increasing, influence of
evidence-based practices.
American Interrogation in Practice: Descriptive Research
In this section we focus on several major studies that have systematically catalogued
interrogation practices in the United States through one of two methodologies: self-reported
surveys and observational / content analyses. These studies paint a picture of American
interrogation which, when compared with most other countries’ practices, highlight the
differences between accusatorial and information gathering models. As discussed below,
observational studies of American interrogation are relatively rare; however, several recent
projects (e.g., Cleary, 2013; Kelly, Redlich, & Miller, 2013; Russano, Narchet, Kleinman, &
Meissner, in press) are contributing to a contemporary perspective on interviewing and
interrogation in the United States.
The preeminent survey of police interrogators was conducted by Kassin et al. (2007)
wherein 631 police interrogators
were asked to report their usage of 16 techniques, most of
which were drawn directly or adapted from common interrogation manuals. The most common
techniques reported by investigators included isolating the suspect from family and friends,
conducting the interrogation in a small room, identifying contradictions in the suspect’s story,
and building rapport. Those techniques considered to be the most coercive or manipulative were
reported to be employed very infrequently: using physical intimidation or threats of
consequences for non-compliance, lying to the suspect about having failed a polygraph, or
expressing frustration or anger. Interestingly, despite the interrogators’ rare use of lying about a
polygraph, Kassin et al. reported that their sample was more willing to use deception about
having other types of evidence of the suspect’s guilt (mean of 3.11 on a 5-point scale). The 16
techniques were further reduced to four factors (isolation, rapport, and minimization;
confrontation; threatening the suspect; and presentation of evidence). Analyses suggested that
“investigator characteristics associated with a tendency to presume guilt are predictive of more
frequent use of psychologically manipulative and confrontational techniques…” (Kassin et al.,
2007, p. 395).
More recently, Redlich, Kelly, and Miller (in press) developed a survey consisting of a
large number of specific techniques used by interrogators in the United States and other
countries. Their sample included a wider variety of interrogators than Kassin et al. (2007), such
as federal agents (e.g., FBI, Department of Homeland Security) and military interrogators, in
addition to state/local police interrogators. Redlich et al. based their survey on an interrogation
taxonomy (Kelly, Miller, Redlich, & Kleinman, 2013) that identified approximately 70 unique
and specific techniques that were sorted into six “meso-level” domains: rapport and relationship
building, context manipulation, emotion provocation, confrontation/competition, collaboration,
and presentation of evidence. Whereas Kassin et al. asked participants to rate how often they
would build rapport with suspects, Redlich et al. included nine different indicators of rapport
building, four of which were the most frequently employed techniques (meet the suspect’s basic
needs; show kindness; build a bond with the suspect; be patient). Redlich et al. found that
Although this chapter is concerned with American practices, it should be noted that the Kassin et al. (2007) sample
included a small proportion (< 10% of the total) of Canadian police investigators.
rapport and relationship building and emotion provocation were the two most frequently used
domains, while confrontation/competition and context manipulation were the least frequently
employed domains. Furthermore, Redlich et al. demonstrated that while the interrogation
methods favored by participants varied across interrogation contexts, the rapport and
relationship building domain served as a primary tactic regardless of context.
In a survey of police interrogators from 10 jurisdictions around the United States,
Reppucci and colleagues focused on several of the more coercive interrogation methods of the
accusatorial model, including ineffective methods for detecting deceit, and examined how the
use of them varied depending upon the age of the suspect (Meyer & Reppucci, 2007; Reppucci,
Meyer, & Kostelnik, 2010). Techniques such as observing body language or speech patterns to
detect deception, asking questions repeatedly, and minimizing the seriousness of the crime were
reportedly used by a majority of interrogators and at a remarkably stable rate across age
groupings of suspects. Although using deceit and presenting false evidence were comparatively
less favored in these studies, approximately 30% of respondents stated that they used these
Survey research can be quite useful for understanding interrogators’ perceptions of the
techniques they utilize; however, this methodology comes with the caveat that the results may be
biased due to social desirability or other such influences. This is particularly true of behaviors
that can be considered coercive or especially manipulative as some interrogation techniques can
be. Accordingly, observational research (e.g., content analysis of live interrogations, recordings,
transcripts, or case files) is necessary and has been conducted to a limited degree in order to
triangulate the actual practices of American interrogators.
Unlike the United Kingdom, for instance, where the recording of police interviews is
mandated, American police have historically operated under no such uniform requirement. Like
nearly all other law enforcement and criminal justice policies in the United States, the recording
of police interrogations varies across states and practices within many states vary by jurisdiction.
Fewer than 10 states require custodial interrogations to be recorded, though others strongly
encourage the practice (Kassin et al., 2010; Sullivan, 2010). Although there has been an increase
in the number of jurisdictions requiring video recording of interrogation, including such federal
agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Defense, the vast
majority of police interrogations conducted in the United States involve no audio or video record
of the event. This lack of recordings has resulted in a relative dearth of observational studies
from which to draw strong conclusions about American interrogation practices. As a point of
comparison, it is perhaps because of the United Kingdom’s law requiring police to record their
interviews there is a comparatively larger body of similar British observational research.
One of the earliest observational studies of interrogation, however, was Leo’s (1996)
seminal work from two U.S. police departments.!This landmark study demonstrated the value of
systematically observing, cataloging and analyzing actual interrogations for scientific purposes.
In general, Leo found that fewer than six of the 25 interrogation tactics he identified were
employed in an average interrogation session. The most commonly occurring approaches
included appealing to the suspect’s self-interest and confronting the suspecting with evidence,
two very prominent tactics found in accusatorial interrogations. Moreover, Leo reported that four
tactics were significantly associated with providing incriminating information: appealing to the
suspect’s conscience, identifying contradictory information, the use of praise or flattery, and the
use of moral justifications.
Focusing on suspects aged 16 and 17, Feld (2012) similarly coded 307 interrogations
conducted in Minnesota. He grouped interrogation techniques into the dichotomous categories of
minimization and maximization and reported that the most commonly employed technique (or
strategy or question) was confronting the suspect with evidence, accusing the suspect of lying,
urging the suspect to tell the truth, and using Reid Behavioral Analysis Interview (BAI)
questions. Feld categorized these as maximization techniques (i.e., those designed to increase the
suspect’s fears or anxiety), and noted that tactics from the minimization category were relatively
less frequent in his sample (e.g., neutralization, appealing to the suspect’s self-interest, and
showing empathy). Although differences between the Feld (2012) and Leo (1996) studies may be
attributed to police perceptions of effective techniques for juvenile versus adult suspects, other
research has demonstrated that, by and large, a suspect’s age is irrelevant with respect to
interrogation methods (Meyer & Reppucci 2007, Reppucci et al., 2010; Redlich, Silverman,
Chen, & Steiner, 2004).
In sum, whether it is through survey or observational research, American interrogation
methods are largely – but not exclusively – associated with an accusatorial and psychologically
manipulative approach. In the next section, we examine the effectiveness of these methods in
light of existing laboratory research in order to draw conclusions of interrogation practices in the
United States.
Assessing the Effectiveness of American Interrogation Practices
More than 50 years ago, the publication of a landmark manual on Criminal Interrogation
and Confessions (Inbau & Reid, 1963) marked a significant point in the history of American
interrogation practices. For better or worse, the accusatorial model embodied within this manual
became the benchmark for law enforcement practices widely used within the United States. In
the following paragraphs, we review the state of the literature with respect to the accusatorial
model of interrogation, and compare its effectiveness with that of alternative methods emerging
from the practices of other countries. One antecedent to change in other countries has been the
role of accusatorial methods in eliciting high profile false confessions from innocent suspects
(Bull & Milne, 2004).
In the United States, social scientists and legal scholars have documented hundreds of
cases involving wrongful conviction over the past several decades (Scheck, Neufeld, & Dwyer,
2000). In 25-30% of these cases, innocent suspects were induced to provide a false confession or
admission that ultimately led to conviction (Drizin & Leo, 2004; Garrett, 2011). Given a
growing awareness of the false confession phenomenon, social scientists began systematically
assessing what factors may lead an innocent person to provide a false statement, including
unique characteristics of the individual that may render them more vulnerable to police
questioning and the powerful influence of certain interrogation techniques that could produce
false confessions. Detailed reviews of this literature are available to the interested reader (see
Kassin et al., 2010; Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004; Lassiter & Meissner, 2010); however, a brief
discussion of the role of accusatorial interrogation methods is provided below, given its
relevance to assessing the efficacy of police interrogation techniques.
A significant body of research stemming from both experimental paradigms in a
laboratory setting (Kassin & Kiechel, 1996; Russano, Meissner, Narchet, & Kassin, 2005) and
archival analyses of known false confessions (Drizin & Leo, 2004; Garrett, 2011; Ofshe & Leo,
1997a, 1997b) suggest that accusatorial methods of interrogation can significantly increase the
likelihood of a false confession (Kassin et al., 2010). For example, techniques designed to
maximize a suspect’s perception of the evidence against him (such as presenting false evidence
or bluffing about the potential for incriminating evidence; see Horselenberg, Merkelbach, &
Josephs, 2003; Nash & Wade, 200; Perillo & Kassin, 2010; Redlich & Goodman, 2003) and
those that attempt to minimize a suspect’s perceptions of his culpability or the likely
consequences if he were to confess (by implying leniency or offering face-saving excuses; see
Horgan, Russano, Meissner, & Evans, 2012; Klaver, Lee, & Rose, 2008; Russano et al., 2005)
have both been shown to increase false confessions by innocent suspects. A strong belief in the
suspect’s guilt on the part of the investigator has also been shown to exacerbate the use of
accusatorial methods (Kassin, Goldstein, & Savitsky, 2003), promote beliefs in deceptive
behaviors (Meissner & Kassin, 2002; 2004), and ultimately increase the likelihood of inducing a
false confession (Narchet, Meissner, & Russano, 2011). Indeed, the psychological factors leading
an innocent person to provide a false confession have been shown to involve both perceived
social pressure to confess aroused by the interrogator and the potential consequences associated
with confessing (vs. not) (see Houston, Meissner, & Evans, 2014; Yang, Madon, & Guyll, in
While documenting techniques that may produce a false confession represents an
important contribution to both theory and practice, recent research has also begun to identify
those psychological processes associated with true confessions (Houston et al., 2014) and to
identify those methods of interrogation that might produce diagnostic confessions statements
from guilty suspects (Meissner et al., in press). For example, Horgan and colleagues (2012)
distinguished between minimization and maximization techniques that influenced suspects’
perception of the likely consequences associated with confession, observing that approaches
devoid of “manipulating consequences” produced more diagnostic outcomes (i.e., an increased
likelihood of true confession and a reduced likelihood of false confession). True confessions
were largely a product of participants’ feelings of guilt or remorse and their beliefs of the
evidence against them – a finding that is quite consistent with a host of laboratory studies
(Houston et al., 2014), as well as surveys of false confessors (Gudjonsson & Sigurdsson, 1996;
Redlich, Kulish, & Steadman, 2011).
More recently, a growing number of empirical studies have begun to assess the diagnostic
utility of information gathering approaches to interrogation, such as the PEACE model used in
the UK and other countries (Meissner et al., in press; see AUTHOR, this volume). Both
experimental research (Evans, Meissner, Ross, Houston, Russano, & Horgan, 2013; Narchet et
al., 2011) and field studies in the UK (Soukara, Bull, Vrij, Turner, & Cherryman, 2009; Walsh &
Bull, 2010) have demonstrated that information gathering methods of interrogation – which
involve the development of rapport, good elicitation strategies, positive confrontation, and
strategic evidence presentation methods – produce more diagnostic outcomes by – increasing the
likelihood of eliciting true confessions while reducing the likelihood of eliciting false
confessions. Additional studies have demonstrated the importance of developing rapport, or a
“working alliance”, between the interrogator and the subject, particularly given its importance in
facilitating suspect disclosures (Alison, Alison, Noone, Elntib, & Christinsen, 2013; Evans,
Houston, Meissner, Ross, LaBianca, Woestehoff, & Kleinman, in press; Goodman-Delahunty &
Howes, in press; Martschuk, Goodman-Delahunty, & Dhami, in press; Redlich et al., in press;
Vanderhallen & Vervaeke, 2014; Walsh & Bull, 2012a; 2012b). Finally, strategic evidence
presentation strategies have also been developed to facilitate disclosure by guilty subjects,
demonstrating that late (or gradual strategic) disclosure of evidence is more likely to produce
admissions that distinguish innocent from guilty suspects (Hartwig, Granhag, & Luke, 2014;
Smith & Bull, in press).
Taken together, the above research is consistent with a meta-analysis of the available
literature by Meissner and colleagues (in press) that compared the diagnostic utility of
accusatorial and information gathering methods of interrogation. While both methods were rather
effective in producing “confessions” in observational studies of real interrogations (when
compared with a set of control techniques that were common to both), experimental studies that
manipulated guilt and innocence showed that information gathering approaches yielded a higher
rate of true confessions while reducing the risk of false confessions.
American Interrogation at a Crossroads: Future Directions for Research and Training
Interrogation in the United States is currently at a crossroads – the methods used by law
enforcement, military, and intelligence communities over the past 50 years were developed
through prior experience and perceptions of effectiveness that are largely devoid of scientific
validation or assessment. Recent studies, however, have called the relative efficacy of these
approaches into question, with data suggesting that the use of accusatorial methods of
interrogation can compel false confessions from innocent persons. This research has also begun
to assess the role of alternative approaches to interrogation that appear to improve the diagnostic
value of information elicited from suspects – methods that improve the development of rapport,
encourage cooperation and communication, use positive confrontation and strategic presentation
of evidence, and rely upon more reliable cues to deception.
The United States government via its High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), a
multi-agency group with components from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense
Intelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency, has recently invested in a five-year
research program aimed at developing a scientific understanding of interrogation that might
leverage theory, methods, and metrics drawn from the cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences.
To date, more than 60 research studies have been supported through this effort, with many of the
findings reflected in the current chapter. While investigators began this research in their
laboratories, the HIG facilitated further assessments of the methods with federal law enforcement
and military training facilities in the U.S., leading many of these facilities to begin integrating the
more effective, science-based methods into their curriculum. The HIG has also developed
“research-to-practice” training packages that are being made available to other federal, state, and
local entities as they work to disseminate the research findings and improve practice in this area.
Our own interactions with military, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel in the
U.S. suggest that practitioners are eager to identify ethical, evidence-based methods of
interrogation that will improve their ability to collect information from non-cooperative
individuals. While further research and development will be vital to creating a robust
understanding of the influence of key facets of an interrogation (see Evans, Meissner, Brandon,
Russano, & Kleinman, 2010) – including the role of language and culture (Kelly, Abdel-Salam,
Miller, & Redlich, in press), the influence of contextual or environmental factors, and an
understanding of factors that might lessen resistance and improve rapport development – a
monumental paradigm shift is perhaps in the offing. Rooted in cutting-edge research and
increasing cooperation between research and practitioners, the treatment of non-cooperative
suspects in the United States appears to be incrementally moving toward a new model of
interrogation and away from the psychologically manipulative methods of the past half-century.
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... The Psychology of Criminal Investigation; edited by Andy Griffiths and Rebecca Milne Format: Royal (156 × 234 mm) Given the quasi-psychological basis of the Reid technique, and its widespread use by US law enforcement (Leo, 2008;Kelly & Meissner, 2016), it is surprising that no empirical studies on real-life interrogation were conducted in the US between 1960 and 1996a period spanning the lead up to and three decades after the Miranda ruling on self-incrimination (Leo, 1996b). Hence, Leo's (1996a) observational study of the tactics used in 500 police interrogations is an important piece of research on a par with research conducted for the RCCP (1981) or Baldwin's (1993) study in the UK. ...
... 257-259 for a summary of these results). These data also show the domination of psychologically manipulative and accusatorial tactics (Kelly & Meissner, 2016). This approach to interrogation has to be viewed as a major contributory cause in the numbers of confession-fuelled miscarriages of justice recorded in the same period (Scheck, Neufeld, & Dwyer, 2000;Garrett, 2010). ...
... In the last few years US funded empirical research prompted by other events has produced a strong evidence base for change (HIG, 2016a(HIG, , 2016b; however, it appears that government is unwilling to drive change. Overall, US interrogation practice is at crossroads (Kelly & Meissner, 2016;Trainum, 2016). Significant change in real-life interview practice amongst law enforcement across the US now requires strong leadership of the type shown by the UK Home Office's Principles of Investigative Interviewing (1992;Schollum, 2017) or the self-generated initiative of the Norwegian police in their own turn-round operation, coupled with open and enthusiastic co-operation with psychologists already conducting laboratory based research which could assist. ...
... The evolution of practices in police interrogation Despite the persistence, to this day, of certain controversial practices (see Kelly & Meissner, 2016;Miller, Redlich, & Kelly, 2018;Snook, Eastwood, Stinson, & Tedeschini, 2010;St-Yves, 2014), police interrogation has greatly evolved since the 1990s. This evolution is linked in large part to the reporting of certain practices deemed unethical and prejudicial to the suspect, to the increasingly frequent presence of a witness in the interview room (lawyer and/or videotape), as well as advances in research in this area. ...
... The process begins with a careful factual analysis of the case, followed by the behavior analysis interview (a nonaccusatory interview designed to gather investigative and behavioral information), followed when appropriate by the Reid nine steps of interrogation aimed at breaking the suspect's resistance (using an accusatory approach based on an assumption of guilt). According to Inbau and colleagues, individuals should be interrogated only when the information obtained from the interview and investigation indicates that the subject is involved in the commission of the crime, which, very often, is based only on a subjective analysis of the suspect's answers and behaviors (Kassin, 2014;Kelly & Meissner, 2016;King & Snook, 2009). ...
A significant number of individuals detained and interrogated by law enforcement agencies present psychopathic personality characteristics. However, despite the numerous studies conducted in recent decades in the fields of psychopathy or investigative interviewing, there are not many studies in the literature on the particularities of questioning psychopaths. If previously, interviewing techniques based on an accusatory model were more accepted, especially with suspects of more serious or violent crimes; currently the use of a methodology based on the scientific evidence and respectful of human rights is something essential, even with psychopaths. This chapter seeks to compile the various contributions in the field of investigative interviewing and integrate them into knowledge about the behavioral characteristics of psychopaths, to present an evidence based model for conducting investigative interviews with psychopaths.
... The majority of research in this area, moreover, has been aimed at understanding the role of interviewing in the context of criminal investigations where, especially in the United States, obtaining a confession is the goal of the interview (Kelly & Meissner, 2016) and, regardless of national context, solving a specific crime is the primary goal of the investigation. with a few exceptions, there is a dearth of research on investigative interviewing at other points "downstream" in the criminal justice process such that new settings and populations to study would make meaningful contributions to the literature. ...
... The research described above was undertaken in the United States and Canada, where the Reid technique and similar accusatory interrogation styles predominate (Kelly & Meissner, 2016;Snook et al., 2015), and it should be noted that this type of interrogation is problematic in that it increases the risk of false confessions (Meissner et al., 2014). A contrasting framework has been developed and evaluated in the United Kingdom and elsewhere that is based on rapport-building with the goal of eliciting information. ...
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The majority of research on investigative interviewing has been on police attempting to solve a crime by obtaining a confession or gathering information, and comparatively fewer studies have examined interviewing at points “downstream” in the process, such as in the courts or correctional system. Furthermore, the focus of the research has been to measure the variable techniques or questioning strategies that produce confessions or information at the expense of analyzing factors related to the interview itself. Thus, we analyzed a sample of 50 corrections-based interviews for “dynamic” interviewing methods and interviewee responses that were measured at three points throughout the interview, and we measured 10 “static” interview factors. In the final multilevel model, we found that productive questioning methods increased a component score that combined interviewee cooperation, engagement, and forthcomingness, the several measures of accusatorial interrogation methods decreased the outcome measure, and the case-level variable of interviewee-initiated interviews increased it.
... Despite the persistence to this day of some controversial practices and issues with suspect interviewing (see Kelly & Meissner, 2016;Miller et al., 2018;Snook et al., 2010Snook et al., , 2020, interrogation techniques have changed considerably over the past three decades (Roberts, 2012). This evolution is largely related to the reporting of certain practices deemed unethical and harmful to the suspect (e.g., length of the interview, attitude of and techniques used by investigators), the increasingly frequent presence of a witness and/or surveillance cameras, as well as advances in scientific research in this area. ...
Establishing if a crime occurred and, ultimately, proving guilt can be accomplished in one of three ways: by witness/victim statements, by physical evidence, or by confession (Rossmo, 2009). The successful interviewing of suspects, victims, and witnesses is therefore of great importance. Until recently, no scientific knowledge was available to provide guidance for those responsible for conducting police interviews. This is particularly striking when it comes to sex offense perpetrators who are considered less likely to cooperate and confess during police interrogation. However, in the past two decades or so, some pioneering researchers started to empirically study this crucial topic in real world settings, in order to provide police interviewers with evidence-based advice and knowledge about victim, witness, and suspect interviewing in sex offense cases. This chapter reviews current empirical efforts in the field of investigative interviewing with suspects generally, and then focuses specifically on investigative interviewing with sex offense perpetrators.
... In contrast, until recently, North America has largely resisted a move from customary interrogation practices that have long served as the foundation of training and practice (Kelly & Meissner, 2016;Snook, Luther, & Barron, 2015). Some would argue that modern accusatorial practices were originally developed on the continent by Kidd (1940) and later refined by Inbau and Reid (1962) into what is commonly referred to today as the Reid Technique. ...
... Therefore, this phase consists of nine steps of highly manipulative, persuasive and suggestive tactics in order to break down the suspects and force confessions (Kassin et al., 2010). Differently put, once entered into the main interrogation phase it is extremely difficult or impossible for an innocent suspect to show his or her innocence (on critical overviews on the Reid-technique see Gudjonsson, 2003;Kelly & Meissner, 2015). ...
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Gathering information in human interactions is a critical aspect for police and intelligence interviewers. However, quite recently and rather slowly researchers have started to focus on using available information in order to collect case-related information in such interactions. This thesis advances this line of research by conducting three studies on how to use available information to elicit new information from sources and suspects. Two of the studies were about the Scharff-technique and one was about the Strategic Use of Evidence (SUE)-technique. Study I compared two combinations of the Scharff tactics and the Direct Approach. Participants (N = 93) took the role of a source and were instructed to strike a balance between not revealing too little or too much information. Overall, the sources in both Scharff conditions revealed more new information, perceived the interviewer to hold more knowledge, and found it more difficult to understand the interviewer’s information objectives, compared to the sources in the Direct Approach. The sources interviewed by the Scharff conditions underestimated how much new information they revealed, whereas the sources interviewed by the Direct Approach overestimated the amount of new information revealed. Study II examined two ways of introducing the presentation of the known information when using the illusion of knowing it all tactic of the Scharff-technique. Again, participants took the role of a source but without having the chance to reveal information. In two separate experiments (each N = 60), the sources’ perceptions of the interviewer’s knowledge and knowledge gaps were mapped. This study found that by just starting the presentation of the known information made the sources believe the interviewer had more knowledge and they searched less actively for gaps in the interviewer’s knowledge, compared to when the interviewer used an extreme convinced introductory statement about his or her case-related knowledge. Study III tested two different ways of eliciting and disclosing statement-evidence inconsistencies using the SUE-technique against an early disclosure of the evidence. Participants (N = 88) performed a mock crime and were instructed to claim innocence. Both SUE conditions resulted in more inconsistencies and the suspects overestimated the interviewer’s knowledge to a higher extent than the Early disclosure condition. However, only the non- judgemental version of the SUE-technique resulted in more new information (vs. the Early disclosure condition) and created a more fostering interview atmosphere (vs. the confrontational version of the SUE- technique). In line with the three studies, this thesis developed an interviewing framework consisting of a conceptual and tactical tier. The conceptual tier explains the cognitive and verbal processes of the sources/suspects in interviews and the mechanisms behind the Scharff and SUE tactics. The tactical tier includes the Scharff-technique and SUE-technique and shows ways in order to influence the sources’/suspects’ perceptions and verbal behaviours. Overall, the developed two-tier interviewing framework can help to train practitioners and initiate further research.
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Interviews with suspects are vital to criminal investigations. Globally, they are generally separated into either information gathering or accusatorial models. In England and Wales, while laboratory-based research has been increasingly undertaken, fewer studies examining actual police interviews have been conducted (despite interviews with suspects being mandatorily tape recorded there for 30 years). Research has tended to examine only certain aspects of such interviews (such as rapport, questioning strategies, and evidence disclosure). Despite the importance of each, interviews are the sum of these individual aspects. An analysis that examines the totality (and dynamic nature) of interviews is therefore required. Such a framework exists, being used to examine police interrogations in the USA, from the perspective of six domains, rooted in the relevant literature, that is, Rapport and Relationship Building, Context Manipulation, Emotion Provocation, Collaboration, Confrontation/Competition, and Presentation of Evidence. However, this taxonomy has not yet been used to assess overall interviewer performance in England and Wales. The present study examined 184 five-minute segments throughout 14 interviews with suspected sex offenders in this country, breaking new ground, by incorporating this taxonomy with interviewers trained in information gathering approaches. Our exploratory findings are that when suspects (whether innocent or guilty) offer resistance, interviewers abandon their initial efforts to build/maintain rapport, and become increasingly confrontational. Concerns also emerged regarding the frequency of those questions asked that do not yield much information. Nevertheless, the study affirms that the taxonomy of domain methodology can be used to provide in-depth and revealing analyses of overall interviewer performance.
Numerous miscarriages of justice have come to light in Indonesia that result from poor police interviewing practices. In response, Indonesian police are developing training in cognitive interviewing (CI), which serves as an international benchmark for witness interviewing practices. However, little is known about how Indonesian police investigators perceive different witness interviewing practices. Without this baseline data and the appropriate adaptation of CI to the Indonesian context, the new CI method might never be embraced by Indonesian police forces. The present study examines such data collected in a large-scale survey involving 222 Indonesian police investigators and supporting in-depth interviews with six police investigators. Findings indicate that Indonesian police hold positive attitudes towards some principles of CI, but nonetheless value their existing interviewing practices, which lack evidence-based techniques of questioning. We conclude that CI has potential, but the training needs to address practices that are inconsistent with good practice interviewing.
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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.
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Objective: The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of a rapport-based approach to interviewing that includes productive questioning skills, conversational rapport, and relational rapport-building tactics. Hypotheses: We predicted that training police investigators in a rapport-based approach would significantly increase the use of rapport-based tactics and that such tactics would directly influence the interviewee’s perceptions of rapport and indirectly lead to increased cooperation and disclosure of information. Method: We trained federal, state, and local law enforcement investigators (N = 67) in the use of evidence-based interviewing techniques. Both before and after this training, investigators interviewed semi cooperative subjects (N = 125). Interviews were coded for the use of various interview tactics, as well as subjects’ disclosure. Participants also completed a questionnaire regarding their perceptions of the interviewer and their decision to cooperate with the interviewer. Results: Evaluations of the training were positive, with high ratings of learning, preparedness to use tactics, and likelihood of use following the training. In posttraining interviews, investigators significantly increased their use of evidence-based tactics, including productive questioning, conversational rapport, and relational rapport-building tactics. Structural equation modeling demonstrated that investigators’ use of the evidence-based interview tactics was directly associated with increased perceptions of rapport and trust and indirectly associated with increased cooperation and information disclosure. Conclusions:We demonstrated that rapport-based interview tactics could be successfully trained and that using such tactics can facilitate perceptions of rapport and trust, reduce individuals’ resistance to cooperate, and increase information yield.
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Every year, there are substantial numbers of juveniles who come into contact with police and the legal system. In 2000, 2.4 million juveniles (17 years or younger) were formally arrested, 32% (758,208) of whom were aged 14 years and younger (Snyder, 2002). Many more children interact with law enforcement but are not officially arrested. And, as the above quote indicates, what occurs during the police interaction can have a significant impact on juveniles’ further passage into the legal system.
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This chapter describes the Strategic Use of Evidence (SUE) technique - an interview method aimed at eliciting cues to deception, and thereby improving the chances of correct judgments of deception and truth. The chapter begins with a general overview of research on deception and its detection, in order to provide a context for the SUE technique. The psychological foundations of the technique are described, with a particular focus on suspects' counter-interrogation strategies. We then review the empirical research on the SUE technique, in order to illustrate how the principles of the SUE technique can be translated into interview tactics. We also describe how these tactics produce different verbal responses from lying and truth-telling suspects, and how these cues can be utilized by lie-catchers in order to detect deception. Finally, we will provide a meta-analysis of the available research on the SUE technique.
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In recent decades, court cases in several countries have revealed some police interviewing of suspects to be grossly incompetent. However, few countries seem to have sought to improve this crucial aspect of policing, which is of great importance to society. However, in England and Wales in the last 20 years, the police service and the government have made pioneering attempts at improvement, these attempts largely being based on work by psychologists. This chapter provides an overview of these developments.
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Recent controversies over the use of psychologically manipulative interrogation methods by U.S. law enforcement, and public concerns regarding the use of physically coercive interrogation methods, have highlighted the need for evidence-based, ethical approaches to facilitate the collection of diagnostic information during interrogation. Over the past few years, our laboratory has sought to better understand the psychological processes that might distinguish true and false confessions from guilty and innocent persons, respectively. Various psychological or decision-making models have been proposed to account for the role of social, cognitive, and affective factors which may lead to a suspect truthfully or falsely confessing. Of note is that little empirical data has sought to assess the validity of these proposed theories. We present here a meta-analysis of the social, cognitive, and affective factors leading to confession across experimental laboratory studies we have conducted using the Russano et al. (Psychological Science 16:481–486, 2005) paradigm. We synthesize this research by proposing a process model that highlights key differences in the psychological states that lead to true and false confessions, focusing on the role of internal and external pressures to confess as the principle mediating mechanism. Specifically, truthful confessions were found to be associated with affect or the emotional response to the interrogation, perceptions of the strength of evidence regarding involvement in the incident, feelings of guilt and the perceived consequences of confessing. In contrast, false confessions were associated with the perceived external pressures originating both from the interrogator and the interrogative context, as well as a perception of the consequences of confessing. Thus, a conception of the role of internal and external psychological mechanisms leading to variation in true and false confessions will be discussed, including the implications of such findings for the development of interrogative approaches that can lead to the elicitation of diagnostic confession evidence.
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Objectives: We completed a systematic review and meta-analysis of the available empirical literature assessing the influence of accusatorial and information-gathering methods of interrogation in eliciting true and false confessions. Methods: We conducted two separate meta-analyses. The first meta-analysis focused on observational field studies that assessed the association between certain interrogation methods and elicitation of a confession statement. The second meta-analysis focused on experimental, laboratory-based studies in which ground truth was known (i.e., a confession is factually true or false). We located 5 field studies and 12 experimental studies eligible for the meta-analyses. We coded outcomes from both study types and report mean effect sizes with 95 % confidence intervals. A random effects model was used for analysis of effect sizes. Moderator analyses were conducted when appropriate. Results: Field studies revealed that both information-gathering and accusatorial approaches were more likely to elicit a confession when compared with direct questioning methods. However, experimental studies revealed that the information-gathering approach preserved, and in some cases increased, the likelihood of true confessions, while simultaneously reducing the likelihood of false confessions. In contrast, the accusatorial approach increased both true and false confessions when compared with a direct questioning method. Conclusions: The available data support the effectiveness of an information-gathering style of interviewing suspects. Caution is warranted, however, due to the small number of independent samples available for the analysis of both field and experimental studies. Additional research, including the use of quasi-experimental field studies, appears warranted.
Did the Supreme Court’s upholding of Miranda in 2000 adversely impact law enforcement, as conservatives have complained, or was it a reaffirmation of individual rights? Welsh S. White looks at both sides of the issue, emphasizing that Miranda represents just one stage in the Court’s ongoing struggle to accommodate a fundamental conflict between law enforcement and civil liberties, and assessing whether the Court’s present decisions (including Miranda) strike an appropriate balance between promoting law enforcement’s interest in obtaining reliable evidence and the individual’s interest in being protected from overreaching police practices.
The importance of building rapport when interviewing witnesses and suspects is emphasized in many interview models developed in Europe as well as in the United States. The construct of rapport shows a number of similarities with the construct of the working alliance, which is already extensively examined in therapeutic settings. Despite the important predictive role found in therapy, the role of the working alliance in investigative interviewing was not addressed in police research. The present study aims at looking into possible benefits of using the theoretical framework and the operationalisation of the working alliance in order to gain insights into the dynamics of investigative interviewing. It is examined to what extent the working alliance contributes to satisfaction with the interview from both investigators and interviewees in actual interviews. It also considers which factors are important to the working alliance. Besides therapeutic factors the study also explores significant factors from investigative interviewing literature on building rapport. Self-report questionnaires completed by investigators and interviewees show the mediating role of the working alliance between empathy, interview style, clarity of the interview and interview satisfaction. The research findings will also be discussed in the light of interview training and follow-up. More in particular, experiences with building rapport from interview training will be presented as well as experiences from a supervision project on suspect interviewing. Finally, in light of the recent Salduz case law and the subsequent introduction of legal advice in Europe, police officers’ views on building rapport with suspects and lawyers are touched upon.
Juveniles possess less maturity, intelligence, and competence than adults, heightening their vulnerability in the justice system. For this reason, states try juveniles in separate courts and use different sentencing standards than for adults. Yet, when police bring kids in for questioning, they use the same interrogation tactics they use for adults, including trickery, deception, and lying to elicit confessions or to produce incriminating evidence against the defendants. In Kids, Cops, and Confessions, Barry Feld offers the first report of what actually happens when police question juveniles. Drawing on remarkable data, Feld analyzes interrogation tapes and transcripts, police reports, juvenile court filings and sentences, and probation and sentencing reports, describing in rich detail what actually happens in the interrogation room. Contrasting routine interrogation and false confessions enables police, lawyers, and judges to identify interrogations that require enhanced scrutiny, to adopt policies to protect citizens, and to assure reliability and integrity of the justice system. Feld has produced an invaluable look at how the justice system really works.