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Developing an Evidence-Based Perspective on Interrogation: A Review of the U.S. Government’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group Research Program



Interrogation practices in the United States have been roundly criticized both for their accusatorial ethos, at times leading to false confessions by the innocent, and for a history of applying physical and psychological coercion in law enforcement, military, and intelligence contexts. Despite decades of psychological research demonstrating the failures of such approaches and despite recent positive advances in countries such as the United Kingdom moving to an information-gathering framework, little change has occurred in the training or practice of U.S. interrogation professionals over the past 50 years. This paper describes recent historical events that have led to the development of the first unclassified, government-funded research program on the science of interviewing and interrogation. Since 2010, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) Research Program has identified effective approaches for developing cooperation and rapport, eliciting information, challenging inconsistencies by presenting evidence or information strategically, and assessing credibility using cognitive cues and strategic questioning tactics. The program has also examined the influence of culture and language, and has facilitated the translation of research from the laboratory to the field. In this context, we review the significant contributions of psychologists to understanding and developing ethical, legal, and effective interrogation practices, and we describe important future directions for research on investigative interviewing and interrogation.
Developing an Evidence-Based Perspective on Interrogation:
A Review of the U.S. Government’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group Research Program
Christian A. Meissner
Iowa State University
Frances Surmon-Böhr
University of Liverpool
Simon Oleszkiewicz
Iowa State University, University of Gothenburg
Laurence Alison
University of Liverpool
In press –
Psychology, Public Policy, & Law
Author Note
This review was supported by a research contract from the U.S. High-Value Detainee Interrogation
Group (HIG) awarded to Christian A. Meissner at Iowa State University. 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 HIG or the U.S. Government. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to
Christian Meissner, Department of Psychology, W112 Lagomarcino Hall - 901 Stange Road, Iowa
State University, Ames, IA 50011-1041. Contact:
Interrogation practices in the United States have been roundly criticized both for their accusatorial
ethos, at times leading to false confessions by the innocent, and for a history of applying physical
and psychological coercion in law enforcement, military, and intelligence contexts. Despite decades
of psychological research demonstrating the failures of such approaches and despite recent positive
advances in countries such as the United Kingdom moving to an information-gathering framework,
little change has occurred in the training or practice of U.S. interrogation professionals over the past
50 years. This paper describes recent historical events that have led to the development of the first
unclassified, government-funded research program on the science of interviewing and interrogation.
Since 2010, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) Research Program has identified
effective approaches for developing cooperation and rapport, eliciting information, challenging
inconsistencies by presenting evidence or information strategically, and assessing credibility using
cognitive cues and strategic questioning tactics. The program has also examined the influence of
culture and language, and has facilitated the translation of research from the laboratory to the field.
In this context, we review the significant contributions of psychologists to understanding and
developing ethical, legal, and effective interrogation practices, and we describe important future
directions for research on investigative interviewing and interrogation.
Developing an Evidence-Based Perspective on Interrogation:
A Review of the U.S. Government’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group Research Program
The interrogation practices adopted by law enforcement, military, and intelligence
professionals in the United States have been criticized both for their accusatorial ethos leading to
false confessions and wrongful conviction of the innocent (Kassin et al., 2010; Lassiter & Meissner,
2010), as well as a dark history of applying torture in the interrogation booth (Costanzo & Redlich,
2010; Vrij et al., in press). Despite decades of research demonstrating the problems with such
approaches and despite recent advances in countries such as the United Kingdom moving toward an
information-gathering framework (Bull & Milne, 2004), little change has occurred in the training or
practice of U.S. interrogation professionals over the past 50 years. This paper describes recent
historical events that have led to the development of the first unclassified, government-funded
research program on the science of interviewing and interrogation, and details its significant
contributions to understanding and developing best practices. Notably, the High-Value Detainee
Interrogation Group (HIG) research program has been shaped, almost exclusively, by an
international cadre of research psychologists conducting studies in the laboratory, in training
academies, and in the field. As detailed below, the HIG research program was built upon an
important foundation of psychological research and is now beginning to offer positive, evidence-
based alternatives to an accusatorial model that has pervaded U.S. training doctrine, leading to
significant changes in practice at both the federal and local levels. While much has been learned
about “what works” in the science of interviewing and interrogation, we close by considering a host
of important future research questions.
Customary vs. Scientific Knowledge in the Interrogation Booth
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, represented a pivotal moment in U.S. history.
Faced with the deaths of nearly 3,000 individuals and an uncertain threat of further terrorist attacks,
the Bush Administration and the U.S. Congress sought to enhance the nation’s capabilities for
collecting and assessing intelligence related to future threats. Within 45 days of 9/11, Congress
passed the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate
Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) – a piece of legislation that
offered national security and intelligence officials more expansive powers to monitor and collect
information on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals (cf. Wong, 2006). Behind the scenes and out of
public view, it also took less than a week for President Bush to sign a classified directive (September
17, 2001) that authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to capture, detain, and interrogate
terrorism suspects (Johnston, 2006). This “memorandum of notification” ultimately led to the use of
secret detention centers and so-called “enhanced interrogation methods” – physical and
psychological coercion – in an effort to elicit valuable human intelligence (HUMINT) that might
prevent future terrorist attacks.
Two psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, were contracted by the CIA in the
months following 9/11 to develop and deploy an interrogation program. The CIA’s approach was
based upon the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training program, in
which service members are exposed to the potential realities of capture and abuse by enemy forces.
The abusive interrogation techniques used in SERE training were drawn from methods historically
deployed on U.S. military personnel captured by the Chinese, North Vietnamese, and Japanese,
among others. Some of the methods ultimately identified by Mitchell and Jessen for the CIA
program would later be employed by U.S. Department of Defense interrogators at such facilities as
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Abu Ghraib, Iraq. Despite the apparent modern application of such
tactics, the use of physical and psychological coercion in the interrogation of subjects has a long
history both by the U.S. and countries around the world. Civilizations, since at least the ancient
Greeks and Romans, have used torture as a method to enact social control, to secure confessions
and therein administer justice, and to gather intelligence information in support of national security
(Rejali, 2009). U.S. soldiers had previously engaged in waterboarding (and other forms of torture)
during the Philippine-American War, World War II, and the Vietnam War (Wahlquist et al., 2008).
In general, such interrogation methods have been historically drawn from customary knowledge:
practices developed over time through experience, handed-down through observational learning and
story-telling, and ultimately codified in manuals, policies, and regulations (see Hartwig et al., 2014).
Rejali (2009) has systematically traced the history of physical and psychological coercion in
interrogation, describing its use as “a family of tortures that descended from old West European
military and police punishments…to pre-World War II practices of French colonialism…to native
American policing practices from the nineteenth century” and ultimately to Abu Ghraib (p. 258).
The customary origins of interrogation practices also extend to modern day “accusatorial” tactics
that are legally authorized for use today by U.S. law enforcement (and others around the world).
While harsh interrogation tactics also have a history within the U.S. criminal justice system – referred
to as “third degree” approaches – reforms in the 1930s and 1940s diminished their use and led to
the development of approaches that emphasized psychological manipulation (Costanzo & Redlich,
2010; Leo, 2009). The accusatorial approach is most popularly embodied in the Reid Technique of
interrogation, first formalized by Inbau and Reid (1963) and now encompassed in many popular
interrogation models (cf. Inbau, Reid, Buckley, & Jayne, 2013; Zulawski, Wicklander, Sturman, &
Hoover, 2001).1 As discussed below, accusatorial methods lack a scientific or evidence-base to
support the elicitation of diagnostic confession evidence (Meissner et al., 2014, 2015; Swanner et al.,
2016) and have been shown to sometimes elicit false confessions (Kassin et al., 2010).
1!While Wicklander-Zulawski and Associates have recently (as of March, 2017) ceased their
instruction of Reid-based, confrontational approaches to interrogation (see https://www.w-, such methods remain widely taught to U.S. federal, state, and local
law enforcement (see Kelly & Meissner, 2015).!
In the wake of 9/11 and the U.S. government’s return to the use of physical and
psychological abuse in the interrogation booth, psychologists have argued both against the
effectiveness of physically and psychologically abusive interrogation methods (see Alison & Alison,
2017; O’Mara, 2015; Vrij et al., in press) and for the development of interrogation practices based
upon scientific knowledge: a perspective drawn from independent observation, theory driven and
empirically derived, and founded upon the principles of replication and peer review (Evans et al.,
2010; Hartwig et al., 2014; Meissner et al., 2010).
In 2006, the U.S. Intelligence Science Board conducted a landmark review, led by Dr. Robert
Fein, that evaluated the U.S. government’s use of legally permissible, accusatorial interrogation
tactics, as well as the introduction of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” in its counter-
terrorism campaigns. The resulting report, Educing Information (Fein et al., 2006), concluded that U.S.
practices and training elements were devoid of any scientific evaluation or validity, and the report
ultimately recommended that the U.S. government initiate a program of research to develop
effective, evidence-based approaches that meet both ethical and legal standards. The findings of the
Educing Information report proved pivotal for prompting the U.S. government to move towards an
ethical and evidence-based understanding of interrogation practices.
An Important Shift in U.S. Interrogation Policy, Practice, and Research:
The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group
In 2009, the Obama Administration embraced many of the suggestions offered in the
Educing Information report. On his second day in office, President Obama signed Executive Order
13491 that created the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies to “establish a
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.” The Task Force would
subsequently recommend an end to the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”,
arguing that “the practices and techniques identified by the Army Field Manual or currently used by
law enforcement provide [an] adequate and effective means of conducting interrogations.The Task
Force further recommended that a new interagency entity be formed – the High-Value Detainee
Interrogation Group (HIG; U.S. Department of Justice, 2009). President Obama officially
authorized creation of the HIG in August of 2009, and the inter-agency group was officially
chartered in January of 2010 (White House Press Briefing, August 24, 2009). The HIG comprises
personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the
Central Intelligence Agency, and is staffed by other U.S. Intelligence Community agencies, as
necessary. The HIG brings together experienced interrogators, subject matter experts, intelligence
analysts, and interpreters to conduct interrogations for purposes of intelligence collection on high-
value targets both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to this operational mission, the HIG was also
tasked with developing the first unclassified scientific research program to evaluate the effectiveness
of current interrogation practices and to develop novel, evidence-based approaches. Further, the
HIG is authorized to “develop a set of best practices and disseminate these for training purposes
among agencies that conduct interrogations” (see
The HIG’s research program was initiated in March of 2010, and has been led by Dr. Susan
Brandon since its inception. The research program is unclassified, commissions basic and applied
research on interviewing and interrogation, encourages researchers to publicly disseminate their
findings, and complies with international laws and U.S. federal code (45 CFR 46) with regard to the
protection of human subjects. The aim of the program has been to develop a robust, evidence-based
perspective on effective methods of interrogation that are both legally and ethically sound (Federal
Bureau of Investigation, 2016). Now in its seventh year, the program has invested more than $15
million USD across more than 100 individual research projects.2 Renowned psychologists both in
the U.S. and around the world (including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, South Africa, and
parts of the Middle East) have contributed to the program, producing more than 120 peer-reviewed
articles in academic journals and other edited volumes. As described below, these studies have
facilitated the development of training programs both in the U.S. and abroad.
While the operational mandate of the HIG has been to collect human intelligence
(HUMINT) in the counter-terrorism context, the research program has has been charged with
developing a broader understanding of effective interviewing and interrogation methods – including
those that occur in criminal, military, and intelligence settings. Scholars have previously discussed the
distinctions between criminal and HUMINT interrogations (see Evans et al., 2010; Redlich, 2007).
The two contexts most notably diverge with respect to their purpose (to obtain a confession
statement as evidence for prosecution vs. to collect information about the past, present, or future
related to a national security investigation); however, the fundamental processes that facilitate
cooperation and elicitation are shared by both contexts, including the interrogation approaches that
are applied by professionals (Russano et al., 2014; Redlich et al., 2014). As such, HIG research
studies have included observations and surveys/interviews of both criminal and HUMINT
interrogators, as well as research paradigms that include elements of both contexts. In doing so,
researchers have begun to focus not only on the elicitation of confessions or admissions, but also
the collection of information from uncooperative subjects (cf. Evans, Meissner, et al., 2013).
As depicted in Figure 1, the HIG research program has pursued a translational approach to
developing a scientific understanding of interrogation. Early studies attempted to document what
2 The amount of research funding allocated by the HIG program is estimated based upon the
authors’ own contracts and their knowledge of the number of contracts publicly administered by the
research program.
happens in an interrogation room (via direct observation or systematic questioning of interrogators)
and to understand what approaches interrogators, analysts, and interpreters believe to represent
“best practice” (via surveys and structured interviews). The HIG also recognized the important role
of experimental laboratory research in determining the causal influence of certain interrogation
methods or contextual factors, as well as the development of theoretical models of interrogation that
are empirically grounded. As existing techniques were better understood and potentially amended, or
as new techniques were developed by scientists, the HIG facilitated collaborative relationships with
existing U.S. training facilities (including the U.S. Department of Defense Human Intelligence
Training Joint Center of Excellence and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center) and coordinated studies that assessed the effectiveness of these
methods when compared with current training and practice. Training studies were then conducted
to evaluate whether the science-based methods could be effectively translated and disseminated to
practitioners, and field validations are now closing this translational loop by assessing the use of
these methods and their effectiveness in real-world interrogations.
The HIG research program was developed based upon a conceptual framework that
identifies several key stages or processes believed to be important to any interrogation (including
criminal, military, and intelligence operations). As displayed in Figure 2, we offer a substantive
conceptual review of the contributions of the HIG research program that addresses four primary
processes related to interrogation: (i) the development of
via a systematic understanding
of rapport, including the role of persuasion tactics and contextual priming; (ii) the
elicitation of
from subjects via effective interviewing skills that facilitate the retrieval of memory; (iii)
strategic use of information or evidence
to address inconsistencies in the narrative and facilitate
disclosure; and (iv) the
assessment of credibility
via strategic questioning and a cognitive approach to
deception. In addition, we describe studies that examine the moderating influence of
culture and
, including the impact of interpreters. Finally, we describe the HIG’s efforts to move from
“research to practice”
, including studies conducted to assess training effectiveness and field
validation. Before detailing the HIG research program and its many contributions to research and
practice, we offer a brief review of psychological research on the interrogation of subjects – research
that has served as a critical foundation for the program. We then conclude our review by considering
important avenues for future research.
Psychological Contributions to Investigative Interviewing and Interrogation
Psychologists have a rich history of contributing to a theoretical and practical understanding
of investigative interviewing and interrogation. Cogent reviews of this research, including the rather
substantive contributions from scholars since the 1980s, are available to readers with respect to the
psychology of interrogation (see Gudjonsson, 2003; Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004; Lassiter &
Meissner, 2010; Milne & Bull, 1999), best practices in interviewing cooperative subjects (see Memon
& Bull, 1999; Poole & Lamb, 1998), and assessments of credibility (see Granhag & Strömwall, 2004;
Vrij, 2008). Psychologists also have a long history of contributing to national security and
intelligence interviewing (Brandon, 2011), and the findings from basic and applied research on
interviewing and interrogation have been made relevant to these contexts as well (see Evans et al.,
2010; Loftus, 2011; Redlich, 2007).
Below, we offer a brief (and admittedly selective) review of the variety of contributions and
findings from this research that serve as the empirical foundation upon which the HIG research
program was established. In particular, we discuss research offering: (i) a rather detailed
understanding of the false confession phenomenon and evaluations of an important shift towards a
rapport-based, information-gathering approach in the UK and other countries; (ii) the development
of good questioning tactics and memory-enhancing interview techniques; and (iii) a scientific
understanding of the diagnostic value of non-verbal, paraverbal, and verbal cues to credibility and
people’s ability to assess deception. We note that, given space limitations, it was simply not possible
to provide a comprehensive review of these areas; as such, this overview is not intended to demean
by exclusion the many important contributions by psychologists to a complete understanding of
interviewing, interrogation, and credibility assessment (including such areas as individual differences,
Miranda/caution issues, forensic clinical evaluations, videotaping of confessions, etc.).
The Psychology of Interrogations and Confessions
More than three decades of systematic research has evaluated the efficacy of accusatorial
interrogation approaches as originally formalized by Inbau and Reid (1962) and now encompassed in
many popular interrogation training programs (see Leo, 2009; Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004).
Accusatorial approaches are generally characterized as both guilt presumptive and confession-
focused. Interrogators typically seek to establish control over the suspect, use questions that confirm
what they believe to be true, and assess credibility based upon non-verbal indicators and the
suspect’s level of anxiety in response to questioning. In this context, interrogators will generally
attempt (i) to isolate the subject and create a reliance upon the interrogator, (ii) to confront the
subject with accusations of guilt and exaggerate the consequences associated with the alleged act
(“maximization”), and then (iii) to downplay the consequences associated with confession and to
offer face-saving excuses for the act (“minimization”; see Kelly & Meissner, 2015; Kassin &
Gudjonsson, 2004; Kassin et al., 2007, 2010).
A variety of research methods have been used to understand the influence of such tactics in
eliciting both true and false confessions. These studies suggest that accusatorial tactics are more
likely to be applied under guilt presumptive conditions in which investigators seek confirmation of
their beliefs (Kassin, Goldstein, & Savitsky, 2005; Leo & Drizin, 2010; Narchet, Meissner, &
Russano, 2009). Field studies suggest that accusatorial tactics yield a powerful influence in eliciting a
confession (Meissner et al., 2014) – hence their popularity among interrogation professionals.
Archival studies, however, suggest that accusatorial tactics may produce confession statements that
are of dubious diagnostic value (Brandon, 2011; Drizin & Leo, 2004). Using a variety of
experimental paradigms (Kassin & Kiechel, 1996; Russano et al., 2005; see Meissner et al., 2010),
psychologists have also demonstrated that minimization, maximization, and false evidence ploys can
increase both true and false confessions (Kassin et al., 2010; Meissner et al, 2014).
Psychologists have also noted the importance of individual difference characteristics that can
increase a subject’s proclivity to provide a false confession (Gudjonsson, 2010). For example, some
individuals are more suggestible, leading them to be more likely to acquiesce to leading questions or
change their responses if pressured by an interviewer (Gudjonsson, 2013). Certain populations also
appear to be particularly vulnerable to interrogation, such as juveniles (Malloy, Shulman, &
Caufman, 2014; Redlich, 2009), individuals with intellectual disabilities (Gudjonsson & Henry, 2003),
and individuals suffering from mental illness including depression or anxiety disorders (Gudjonsson,
2003; Redlich, Kulish, & Steadman, 2011; Redlich, Summers, & Hoover, 2010).
Given the prevalence of the false confession phenomenon resulting from accusatorial police
interrogation tactics and certain individual difference risk factors, countries such as England and
Wales began to move away from these practices in the 1980s and 1990s, and to implement a non-
coercive, rapport-based, information-gathering approach. Reviews of this important transformation
are available for interested readers (see Bull & Soukara, 2010; Clarke, Milne, & Bull, 2011; Milne &
Bull, 1999). Psychologists in the United Kingdom played a key role in the ultimate development of
the PEACE model (Planning and preparation, Engage and explain, obtain an Account, Closure,
Evaluation) that is now widely implemented (with some variation) in countries such as the United
Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Norway.
In general, an information-gathering approach focuses on developing rapport with the
subject, explaining the allegation and the seriousness of the offense, and emphasizing the
importance of honesty and truth gathering. Subjects are given the opportunity to offer their account
without interruption, and investigators are encouraged to actively listen. Thereafter, subjects are
questioned with regard to inconsistencies and contradictions in their narrative. This interview
method has the goal of “fact finding” rather than obtaining a confession, and investigators are
prohibited from deceiving suspects. While substantive empirical assessment of the information-
gathering approach has been limited, field studies have suggested that such methods can significantly
increase the likelihood of obtaining a confession (Walsh & Bull, 2010), and experimental data has
suggested that information-gathering approaches can lead to more diagnostic confessions (see
Meissner et al., 2014). As described below, the HIG research program offered the U.S. an important
opportunity to follow in the footsteps of other countries that have implemented the PEACE model
and to further develop an evidence-based alternative to current training and practice.
The Psychology of Interviewing Cooperative Subjects
Accusatorial approaches and related training programs rarely consider the importance of
effective interviewing and elicitation skills. Rather, the focus of such programs is oriented towards
assessing credibility and educing a confession statement that supports the available facts of the case
(Fisher & Perez, 2007). In contrast, information-gathering approaches encourage the use of open-
ended, non-suggestive questioning tactics (Clark & Milne, 2001; Walsh & Bull, 2010b), as well as
memory-enhancing interviewing techniques (Fisher & Geiselman, 1992; Memon, Meissner, &
Fraser, 2010), to elicit a complete narrative from the subject. Psychologists have contributed
significantly to our understanding of human memory and, most relevant to the investigative
interviewing process, its retrieval (see Perfect & Lindsay, 2014). The translation of this research to
effective interviewing strategies relate to the potential malleability of memory in an interview
context, and to the development of approaches that facilitate accurate and complete recall.
Decades of research has demonstrated the fragility of memory and the extent to which
individuals are susceptible to confabulation and misinformation (see Brainerd & Reyna, 2005;
Loftus, 2005; Newman & Garry, 2013). With respect to investigative interviewing, studies have
shown that information suggested by an interviewer can distort a subject’s memory for aspects of
the original event (Loftus, 1975; Loftus & Zanni, 1975), and even create false memories for an
entirely novel event (Loftus & Pickrell, 1995). False memories have also been created in a manner
that lead subjects to offer false criminal accusations against another individual (Loney & Cutler,
2015) and to generate false memories of a crime they had never committed (Shaw & Porter, 2015).
The substantive role of the presentation of false or misleading evidence in this process has also been
demonstrated (Nash & Wade, 2009; Wade, Green, & Nash, 2010).
This conceptual understanding of the fragility of memory and the influence of certain types
of questions prompted psychologists to identify best practices for the interviewing of both adults
(cf. Fisher & Geiselman, 1992; Milne & Bull, 1999) and children (cf. Sternberg, Lamb, Esplin,
Orbach, & Hershkowitz, 2002). As nicely summarized by Powell, Fisher, and Wright (2005), this
psychological research suggests that the common elements of a good investigative interviewing
protocol include: (i) the development of rapport to achieve cooperation, (ii) a clear description of
the rules and expectations for the interview process, (iii) the predominant use of an open-ended
questioning style (leading to a funnel approach), and (iv) a willingness on the part of the investigator
to explore alternative hypotheses (and therein avoid confirmation biases).
A final significant research line has involved the development of interview approaches that
enhance a subject’s recall (quantity and accuracy) of an event from memory. The most noteworthy
protocol developed in this context is the Cognitive Interview (CI; Fisher & Geiselman, 1992). The
CI was designed to include the core elements of “best practice” in interviewing, as noted above, but
also to apply a cognitive psychological perspective on factors that support or enhance the retrieval –
including the use of mental context reinstatement, the use of witness compatible questions (such as
sketching; cf. Leins, Fisher, & Vrij, 2012), the provision of multiple retrieval opportunities, and the
use of mnemonic approaches (such as recalling from a different perspective or reversing temporal
order). The CI is likely the most studied interview protocol to date. It has consistently demonstrated
efficacy in increasing the recall of correct information from cooperative subjects, with little impact
on the accuracy of information provided (see Memon et al., 2010).
The Psychology of Detecting Deception
Interrogators are often faced with the difficult task of assessing the credibility of a statement
offered by the subject. Research suggests that individuals hold a number of stereotypical beliefs
regarding the behaviors that liars display (e.g., gaze aversion, nervousness; see The Global Deception
Research Team, 2006); however, individuals often fail to consider behaviors that might, alternatively,
validate a person’s honesty (Hartwig & Bond, 2014). Decades of research has, in fact, compared the
behaviors of liars with that of truth-tellers to identify diagnostic cues to deception. A meta-analytic
review of this research shows that truth tellers talk more and provide more details than liars, that
stories told by truth-tellers are more logical and plausible, and that truth-tellers are verbally more
immediate than liars (DePaulo et al., 2003). In contrast, few paraverbal cues (e.g., aspects
accompanying speech, such as voice pitch or pauses) or non-verbal behaviors (e.g., hand or arm
movements) have been empirically linked to deception (Sporer & Schwandt, 2006, 2007).
In light of the consistent challenge of identifying reliable behavioral cues to deception, it is
not surprising that people perform only slightly better than chance when attempting to distinguish
deceptive and truthful accounts (i.e., 54%), even when the stakes for the sender are high (Bond &
DePaulo, 2006; Hartwig & Bond, 2011; 2014). Professional investigators, too, demonstrate chance
performance in veracity judgments (Bond & DePaulo, 2006), though they are more likely to display
high confidence in their deception detection skills and are more likely to ascribe people as lying even
when they are truthful (Bond & DePaulo, 2006; Meissner & Kassin, 2002; Kassin et al., 2005).
To improve detection skills, researchers have investigated the value of indirect measures of
deception (e.g., rating how comfortable or suspicious a target is), finding that such approaches can
better predict deception (DePaulo & Morris, 2004). Others have demonstrated the advantages of
unconscious or intuitive lie-detection (Albrechtsen, Meissner, & Susa, 2009; ten Brinke, Stimson, &
Carney, 2014), though the potential value of this approach has been questioned (Levine & Bond,
2014; Street & Vadillo, 2016). Training studies also suggest that deception detection can be
improved by directing subjects to verbal content cues, whereas training on non-verbal and
paraverbal cues yield only small or non-significant benefits on performance (Hauch, Sporer, Michael,
& Meissner, 2014; see also Driskell, 2012). Finally, given the significant challenges of identifying
diagnostic cues in the context of passive observation (Hartwig & Bond, 2011), researchers have
begun to develop interview techniques that elicit and enhance the cognitive, content-based cues that
appear most promising (Vrij & Granhag, 2012; Vrij, Taylor, & Picornell, 2016).
The HIG Research Program: 2010 to Present
Upon this foundation of psychological research, the U.S. government established the HIG
research program in 2010. We now turn to a substantive review of psychological research that has
been supported by this program, having coded each of the more than 120 publications into one or
more of the interrogation processes identified in Figure 2. We also describe research on the role of
culture and language, as well as efforts to translate this research to training and practice.
Developing Cooperation via Rapport, Persuasion, and Conceptual Priming
A variety of techniques have been used by interrogation professionals to develop
cooperation with a resistant subject. HIG researchers have sought to document and organize these
various approaches, and to further evaluate the effectiveness of accusatorial and information-
gathering approaches – the most prominent models of interrogation. Scholars have also attempted
to better define the concept of “rapport” and to identify both the tactics and conditions that
facilitate its development. Finally, researchers have worked to translate the basic literature on social
persuasion to the interrogative context, and have explored the influence of conceptual priming to
develop an open and cooperative environment.
A taxonomy of interrogation techniques and their application
. A variety of tactics have been
described in the extant literature and documented in observational and archival studies of
interrogation (cf. Kassin et al., 2007). HIG researchers have systematically coded more than 70
tactics identified in a review of both empirical studies and training manuals (Kelly, Miller, Redlich,
& Kleinman, 2013), producing a conceptual taxonomy that includes six domains:
Rapport and Relationship Building was defined as a “working relationship between operator and
source based on a mutually shared understanding of each other’s goals and needs” (Kelly et
al., 2013, p. 169). This category included tactics such as being patient, showing kindness and
respect, and developing common ground (e.g., by identifying overlapping interests).
Context Manipulation was defined as an interrogators’ attempts to alter the physical space
surrounding the interrogation, for example by using isolation or facilitating social
engagement, utilizing a small room or conducting the interview in a more expansive or
outdoor setting, or considering the cultural relevance of furniture within the room.
Emotion Provocation involved an interrogator’s attempts to psychologically manipulate the
emotions experienced by the subject. Interviewers may address the conscience or religious
ideology of the subject, induce anxiety or stress, or attempt to assuage fears or concerns.
Confrontation/Competition was related to the assertion of control and authority by the
interrogator. Interrogators may attempt to challenge a subject’s beliefs regarding their
responsibility for the alleged act, or repeatedly question and demonstrate impatience.
Collaboration, in contrast, involved developing a context in which the interrogator and subject
are equal partners working toward a common goal. A primary tactic involves offering
incentives for cooperation (such as comfort items or a phone call to a family member), and
more generally displaying respect, concern, and patience with the subject.
Finally, the Presentation of Evidence domain involved the use of investigative evidence or
intelligence information. This could include both confronting a subject with actual
information, bluffing about the nature/strength of the evidence available, or the use of a
polygraph to bolster claims regarding veracity and culpability.
Surveys and interviews conducted by HIG researchers have leveraged this taxonomy in
documenting the use of various techniques by interrogators, as well as assessing their perceptions of
the most effective tactics supporting “best practice.For example, a survey of U.S. federal agents,
military interrogators, and state/local police investigators found that Rapport and Relationship
Building was the most frequently endorsed approach to interrogation regardless of context, while
Confrontation/Competition was perceived as least effective (and least utilized; Redlich, Kelly, &
Miller, 2014). Rapport and Relationship Building was also found to be critical among samples of
highly experienced military and intelligence interrogators (including those who conduct “high-value
target” interrogations; Narchet, Russano, Kleinman, & Meissner, 2016; Russano, Narchet,
Kleinman, & Meissner, 2014), and in cross-national samples of interrogation professionals from
Australia and southeast Asia (Goodman-Delahunty, Martschuk, & Dahmi, 2014).
Recent observational studies of criminal interrogations have also applied this taxonomy to
examine both the frequency with which certain tactics are used and to assess their effectiveness in
predicting key interrogation outcomes. Consistent with self-report methodologies, Rapport and
Relationship Building was most frequently used by interrogation professionals, while Context
Manipulation and Collaboration were least often employed (Kelly, Miller, & Redlich, 2016; Kelly,
Redlich, & Miller, 2015). Both Emotion Provocation and Evidence Presentation were also readily
used by investigators in a manner consistent with an accusatorial framework. Suspect denials were
statistically associated with the use of Emotion Provocation, Evidence Presentation, and
Confrontation/Competition (Kelly et al., 2015), while suspect cooperation was elicited by the use of
Rapport and Relationship Building (Kelly et al., 2016). Thus, it appears that while professionals
frequently report the use of Rapport and Relationship Building and that such approaches are
associated with positive outcomes, accusatorial approaches continue to pervade interrogations and
appear associated with a greater likelihood of suspect denial and diminished cooperation.
Accusatorial vs. information-gathering approaches.
As described previously, psychologists
have distinguished between accusatorial and information-gathering approaches to interrogation.
HIG studies have continued to explore the effectiveness of these two approaches (for a review, see
Meissner, Kelly, & Woestehoff, 2015) primarily using experimental laboratory methods. For
example, scholars have observed that techniques designed to influence a suspect’s perception of the
consequences of confessing, either by implying leniency (minimization) or inducing a fear of harsher
punishment (maximization), lead to less diagnostic confessions by increasing the likelihood of false
confessions (Horgan, Russano, Meissner, & Evans, 2012). Using a modified version of the ‘cheating
paradigm’ (Russano et al., 2005) to model a HUMINT interrogation context, researchers have also
directly compared accusatorial and information-gathering tactics, finding that an information-
gathering approach can significantly increase the elicitation of critical intelligence, as well as
admissions from the guilty (Evans, Meissner et al., 2013). A recent meta-analysis of this literature
directly compared the effectiveness of accusatorial and information-gathering approaches (Meissner
et al., 2014) – while field studies demonstrated that both approaches are effective in producing
confessions (when compared with a “direct” approach), experimental studies suggested that
information-gathering approaches produced more diagnostic outcomes by increasing the likelihood of
a true confession and reducing the likelihood of a false confession.
The information-gathering approach appears to have improved diagnosticity (at least in part)
because it reduces both nervousness and social pressure experienced by innocent (but not guilty)
subjects (Evans, Meissner et al., 2013). Researchers have continued to explore the psychological
factors that predict true vs. false confessions. Using a meta-analytic approach (Houston, Meissner, &
Evans, 2014; see also Redlich et al., 2011), it was observed that true confessions were best predicted
by a subject’s feelings of guilt, responsibility, or remorse, as well as perceptions of proof/evidence
and affective experiences of stress, worry, and anxiety. In contrast, false confessions were related to
perceived social pressure (on the part of the interrogator) to confess. Perceptions of the
consequences associated with confession, on the other hand, were related to both true and false
confessions. From this psychological lens and related research (see Meissner et al., 2010),
accusatorial approaches appear to produce false confessions by increasing a subject’s perception of
social pressure and manipulating their beliefs regarding the likely benefits (consequences) associated
with confession. Information-gathering approaches, in contrast, appear to reduce perceptions of
pressure on the innocent, and promote rapport and enhance internal feelings of guilt, responsibility,
or remorse to facilitate true confessions.
What is rapport and is it effective?
As discussed above, Rapport and Relationship Building is
frequently described by interrogation professionals as a fundamental approach (Kelly et al, 2015;
Redlich et al, 2014; Russano et al., 2014), and both interview and observational data support the
significant influence of rapport in facilitating cooperation and disclosure (Goodman-Delahunty et
al., 2014; Kelly et al., 2015; Kelly et al., 2016). Despite interrogators’ often enthusiastic support of
rapport-based methods, challenges have remained both with defining the construct and measuring
its occurrence. In fact, interviews with experienced interrogators often reveal a lack of consensus
with respect to a definition of rapport or the tactics that bring about it (Russano et al., 2014).
HIG researchers have begun to develop a psychological understanding of rapport and design
approaches both for measuring its occurrence and identifying the tactics that give rise to it. Often
cited in the literature is a model of rapport based upon physician–patient interactions offered by
Tickle-Degnen and Rosenthal (1990). This model identifies three components of rapport: mutual
attention (amount of involvement between the interactants), positivity (the emotional aspect involving
mutual respect or liking), and coordination (a pattern of reciprocal responses or synchronicity between
the interactants). Based upon this theoretical framework and research in the clinical and social
psychological literatures, several tactics were identified for developing rapport in the interview and
interrogation context, including: (i) immediacy behaviors (e.g., leaning forward, eye contact); (ii)
active listening; (iii) mimicry; (iv) contrasting emotions; (v) disclosing personal information; (vi)
establishing common ground; and (vii) frequency of contact (Abbe & Brandon, 2013, 2014).
Researchers have also conducted extensive analysis on the impact of interpersonal skills and
rapport-based methods using unique samples of field interrogations. Based on an examination of
what skills increase and/or decrease the amount of evidentially useful information produced in
interviews with terrorism suspects, HIG researchers have developed the Observing Rapport Based
Interpersonal Techniques (ORBIT) framework (Alison, Alison, Elntib & Noone, 2010). This
framework has been applied to the observational coding of more than 1,200 hours of interviews
with extreme right wing, al Qaeda, ISIS and paramilitary detainees in the United Kingdom (Alison &
Alison, 2017). Perhaps unusually, this model of rapport is not predicated on liking, similarity, or
even mutual respect, but is focused on more practical, goal directed aims. ORBIT combines two
previously diverse elements – elicitation methods associated with Motivational Interviewing (MI;
Miller & Rollnick, 1992) and aspects of interpersonal behavior theories (Leary, 1955) to examine
adaptive and maladaptive investigator-suspect interactions (Alison, Alison, Noone, Elntib &
Christiansen, 2013). The latter, interpersonal elements of ORBIT are directed at managing the
potentially difficult behaviors exhibited by subjects (which may at times be aggressive, passive and
disengaged, or manipulative), while the rapport-based elements are directed at extracting thoughts,
values, beliefs and, ultimately, relevant information, intelligence and evidence. The approach
suggests that rapport is established by creating a collaborative rather than confrontational
environment, by drawing on information from the client rather than demanding it, and by
maintaining the client’s autonomy instead of highlighting the interviewer’s authority. Five specific
strategies were adapted from the MI literature (autonomy, acceptance, adaptation, empathy, and evocation)
were shown to be key in building and maintaining rapport in interrogations, while the interpersonal
competence and versatility of the interviewer was positively associated with promoting adaptive
suspect behavior. Having a positive impact on the suspect’s behavior ultimately led to increased
disclosure of relevant information (Alison et al., 2013). Subsequent analyses also found that these
skills significantly reduced a suspect’s use of counter interrogation tactics (Alison et al., 2014).
Researchers have also investigated a variety of tactics and conditions that are believed to
influence rapport. For example, mimicry appears to represent both a predictor and a potential tactic
for developing rapport (Abbe & Brandon, 2013, 2014). Across a sample of 64 law enforcement
interrogations, mimicry demonstrated on the part of the interrogator (as measured by a sequential
analysis of Language Style Matching) served as a key predictor of the likelihood of confession
(Richardson, Taylor, Snook, Conchie, & Bennell 2014). Laboratory studies have also shown that
deliberate mimicry on the part of an interviewer can facilitate the disclosure of accurate details from
truthful (but not deceptive) subjects (Shaw, Vrij et al., 2015). As such, mimicry may be useful for
both promoting elicitation and facilitating assessments of credibility.
Finally, researchers have also examined the role of emotional approaches (derived from the
U.S. Army Field Manual 2-22.3, 2006) in facilitating (or damaging) the development of rapport.
Using an experimental laboratory paradigm, subjects were exposed to either a negative (designed to
increase fear, diminish self-worth, and create a perception of futility) or positive (designed to lessen
fear, facilitate rapport, and offer empathy) emotional approach (versus a direct approach; Evans et
al., 2014). While both emotional approaches proved more effective than direct questioning in
eliciting details, a mediation analysis demonstrated that positive emotional approaches both reduced
anxiety and increased perceived rapport while negative emotional approaches increased anxiety.
Using persuasion to achieve cooperation.
In reviewing the literature on rapport, Abbe and
Brandon (2013, 2014) noted that many rapport-based interviewing tactics relate to principles of
social influence (Cialdini, 2006; Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004) that operate via interest, identity, or
relational motivations (Kelman, 2006). For example, an interviewer’s use of personal disclosure (i.e.,
information about oneself) can both facilitate liking and instantiate reciprocity that is likely to
facilitate disclosures by the subject. Across a series of in-depth interviews involving experienced
intelligence and criminal interrogators, researchers have found that both liking and reciprocity are
most closely associated with efforts at Rapport and Relationship Building (Goodman-Delahunty &
Howes, 2014; Goodman-Delahunty et al., 2014). Interrogators frequently identified similarities, used
humor, and leveraged informality to facilitate liking, while acts of hospitality, sympathy, addressing a
subject’s needs, and offers of incentives were employed to facilitate reciprocal cooperation. The use
of reciprocity and liking tactics were also found to significantly increase information disclosure.
Conceptual priming to facilitate cooperative environments.
Finally, researchers have begun
to evaluate the role of conceptual priming as a method to facilitate cooperation. Conceptual priming
involves exposing an individual to a concept via imagery, word, or bodily states in a manner that
increases the cognitive accessibility of the concept. Activation of a concept is then believed to
facilitate certain behavioral responses (see Higgins & King, 1981). HIG studies have assessed
whether the activation of certain concepts (via contextual manipulations or instructions to the
subject that activate certain concepts) might facilitate cooperation or the disclosure of information.
Priming self-affirmation and attachment has been explored to assess whether it might
facilitate disclosure of sensitive or embarrassing information from individuals. Researchers have
found that priming a person’s self-worth (via self-affirmation that highlights positive values, personal
attributes, and life experiences related to the self; see McQueen & Klein, 2006; Sherman & Cohen,
2006) can significantly increase disclosure of embarrassing information, while priming instances that
undermined a person’s self-worth (via disaffirmation that highlights failures and negative life
experiences related to the self) can significantly inhibit disclosure (Davis, Soref, Villalobos, &
Mikulincer, 2016). Priming attachment security in subjects has also been examined by, for example,
asking people to recall memories of a close, trusted other (see Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). Using a
variety of experimental laboratory paradigms, priming attachment has been found to significantly
increase disclosure when compared with an insecure attachment or neutral priming condition (Davis
et al., 2016), and to facilitate self-reports being more honest and increase the amount of information
provided to an interviewer (Dawson, Hartwig, & Brimbal, 2015).
Finally, researchers have also explored the concept of “openness” as a metaphor for
increasing the extent to which an individual was forthcoming and willing to disclose information.
Openness was primed in these studies by manipulating aspects of the environment or room to be
perceived as open and expansive (e.g., open window, photographs that signal openness, an open
book, a drawer that was open) versus a more closed, custodial setting (e.g., no window, bare walls,
rigid chairs and small table). Overall, primes that signal openness significantly increased subjects’
disclosure of information, including critical details (Dawson et al., in press).
Eliciting Information via Conversational Rapport and Facilitating Memory Retrieval
As described previously, a strong foundation of research has been established with respect to
interviewing cooperative subjects (see Powell et al., 2005); however, much of this research has
focused on skills related to interviewing witnesses or victims. While interrogation training programs
primarily focus on gaining cooperation (and ultimately a state of compliance that produces a
confession; see Kelly & Meissner, 2015), researchers have begun to assess the importance of basic
elicitation skills in promoting conversational rapport in less cooperative contexts – including the use
of effective questioning skills drawn from a Motivational Interviewing framework (discussed
previously; Alison et al., 2013, 2014). We focus here on research that has extended the Cognitive
Interview to subject interviews for eliciting criminal and intelligence information.
Further developing the Cognitive Interview
. For more than three decades, researchers have
studied the Cognitive Interview (CI) as a method for enhancing the recall and reporting of witnesses
and victims (Fisher & Geiselman, 1992; Fisher, Milne, & Bull, 2011). Meta-analyses have
documented the effectiveness of the CI for increasing correct recall of information absent a
significant cost to accuracy (see Memon et al., 2010). HIG studies have begun to explore the utility
of the CI for use in both criminal and intelligence interrogations. For example, the CI has been
incorporated into an information-gathering approach and demonstrated, via an experimental
laboratory paradigm, to significantly enhance recall of critical information when compared with an
accusatorial approach (Evans, Meissner, et al., 2013). Researchers have also explored the
development of mnemonics that facilitate memory recall for information from intelligence
interviews of sources (such as meetings and social networks), finding that such mnemonics can
double the amount of information recalled when compared with a control interview (Leins, Fisher,
Pludwinksi, Rivard, & Robertson, 2014). Finally, the introduction of “model statement” (a detailed
narrative that offers the subject an example of the level detail requested) has been shown to
significantly increase the amount of detail reported by subjects (Ewens, Vrij, Leal, Mann, Jo,
Shaboltas, Ivanova, Granskaya, & Houston, 2016; Leal, Vrij, Warmelink, Vernham, & Fisher, 2015).
As discussed below, the introduction of CI elements also offer important implications for
assessments of statement credibility (Morgan et al., 2013; see Vrij, 2015).
Challenging Inconsistencies and Facilitating Disclosure via Strategic Use of Evidence
Presenting evidence to a subject can be of great use to an interviewer. Studies have
demonstrated that evidence can be disclosed to elicit inconsistencies between a subject’s account
and the existing evidence (e.g., Granhag et al., 2013), and to facilitate admissions from a subject (e.g.,
Tekin et al., 2015). Reports from professional interviewers, however, paint a less consistent picture,
suggesting that while presenting evidence can be effective for obtaining confessions and strategic
information (Redlich et al., 2014; Kelly et al., 2015), the manner of evidence presentation may, at
times, decrease a subject’s cooperation (Goodman-Delahunty et al., 2014; Kelly et al., 2016) and may
be less effective for gathering intelligence information (Redlich et al., 2014). Such discrepancies
could be due to the variety of ways that professionals are trained to present evidence (Hartwig,
Granhag, Strömwall, & Kronkvist, 2006; Luke et al., 2016). Research, however, has demonstrated
positive effects following appropriate evidence disclosure, suggesting that a subject’s underlying
motivation is key to understanding their information management strategy (see Granhag & Hartwig,
2015; Oleszkiewicz, 2016). Below we describe HIG researchers’ attempts to develop several
effective information disclosure approaches, including the Strategic Use of Evidence (Granhag &
Hartwig, 2008) and the Scharff technique (Granhag, Kleinman, & Oleszkiewicz, 2016).
The Strategic Use of Evidence technique
. Research shows that there are a variety of ways to
disclose evidence to a subject, and that evidence disclosure can influence what information the
subject is willing to reveal and what information the subject is likely to withhold. The rationale is
based on two premises. First, if a subject initiates the interview with a cooperative behavior, research
suggests that they will seek to maintain an appearance of credibility throughout the interview.
Second, if critical information must be protected, the subject is likely to engage in avoidance
strategies and/or denials until such behavior is deemed futile (Hartwig et al., 2014). Hence, the
Strategic Use of Evidence (SUE) technique seeks to initially gain the cooperation from the subject
and elicit an open-ended narrative. After the subject has committed to an account, evidence
disclosure strategies can be used to challenge the individual’s narrative (see Granhag & Hartwig,
2015). As an example, to elicit information for assessing whether a subject has committed a crime or
not, the interviewer may find an advantage with initially withholding evidence that points to the
subject’s guilt. Then, by consulting an evidence framing matrix (Granhag et al., 2012), each piece of
evidence can be framed with different degrees of precision (i.e., from general to specific). By
gradually narrowing the precision frame, the subject will be forced to attune his or her story to better
account for the more precise details. Such strategic evidence framing has been shown to increase the
number of statements that are inconsistent with the evidence (Luke et al., 2013). Studies have also
examined the effects of different countermeasures to the SUE technique, finding that subjects who
are alerted to possible evidence against them can increase their willingness to offer critical
information (Luke et al., 2014), and that being informed of specific SUE tactics can induce a subject
to be more forthcoming (Luke et al., 2015).
The Scharff technique
. While laboratory-based studies agree on the positive effects of
withholding evidence until having established the subject’s account, there are instances when
presenting known information up-front can encourage disclosure and provide strategic benefits. For
example, when gathering intelligence information to advance an investigation, the interviewer may
find an advantage in demonstrating knowledge of the case and then subtly eliciting additional
information without the interviewee realizing that this is the interviewer’s aim. To investigate such
subtle elicitation tactics, researchers have drawn from the biographical literature on Hanns Scharff, a
highly successful World War II interrogator, and conceptualized the ‘Scharff technique’ as a set of
five interrelated tactics: (i) a friendly approach, (ii) not pressing for information, (iii) creating
an ‘illusion of knowing it all’, (iv) using confirmations/disconfirmations, and (v) ignoring new
information that is brought up (Granhag, Kleinman, & Oleszkiewicz, 2016). The effectiveness of the
Scharff technique has been examined by comparing it with a Direct Approach using an experimental
laboratory paradigm that mirrors features of a typical intelligence interview (e.g., the interviewee is
motivated to share information, but is also motivated to withhold information from the interviewer;
see Granhag, Cancino Montecinos, & Oleszkiewicz, 2015). Findings from these studies have
consistently demonstrated: that the Scharff technique elicits more information that advances the
interviewer’s knowledge on the case (i.e., new information) than the Direct Approach
(e.g. Oleszkiewicz, Granhag, & Cancino Montecinos, 2014; Oleszkiewicz, Granhag, & Kleinman,
2014; May & Granhag, 2015); that those interviewed using the Scharff technique underestimate the
amount of new information they had revealed (e.g., May, Granhag, & Oleszkiewicz, 2014;
Oleszkiewicz, Granhag, & Kleinman, 2014); and that the Scharff technique can better mask the
interviewer’s information objectives (e.g., Oleszkiewicz, Granhag, & Kleinman, 2014; May et al.,
2014). The technique was also found to be effective for interviewing sources with different levels of
capability and cooperation (Granhag, Oleszkiewicz, Strömwall, & Kleinman, 2015), members of
small cells (Granhag, Oleszkiewicz, & Kleinman, 2016), and individual sources across multiple
interviews (Oleszkiewicz, Granhag, & Kleinman, 2017a). Overall, this research suggests that the
Scharff technique is a promising tool for gathering information in subtle elicitation settings.
Assessing Credibility via a Cognitive Model of Deception and Strategic Questioning
Research has repeatedly demonstrated that the variety of recommendations for assessing
credibility offered by popular interview and interrogation manuals fail to provide a legitimate
standard from which to detect deceit (Ewens, Vrij, Jang, & Jo, 2014; Vrij, 2016). This can largely be
explained by the fact that liars adopt strategies that allow them to remain close to truth-telling
(Leins, Fisher, & Ross, 2013), rendering the cues to deceit so faint and unreliable (DePaulo et al.,
2003, Hartwig & Bond, 2011) that it is almost impossible to discriminate between truth-tellers and
liars (Bond & DePaulo, 2006). Recent research has, instead, suggested that a novel “cognitive
approach” to assessing credibility may prove more effective. In particular, lying appears to involve
certain distinctive features such as making up a story, adhering to checkable facts, and remaining
consistent with earlier statements, while truthful messages draw on memory (Vrij, 2014, 2015).
Hence, researchers have begun developing techniques that elicit more diagnostic cues to deception
within a cognitive framework (Vrij & Granhag, 2012; Vrij, Taylor, & Picornell, 2016).
A cognitive lie detection approach
. Studies have demonstrated that a cognitive approach can
improve deception detection accuracy in general (Vrij, Fisher, & Blank, 2017) and can be used
during a variety of different interview conditions (see Vrij & Granhag, 2014), including when there is
no evidence at hand (Vrij, Fisher, Blank, Leal, & Mann, 2015). The cognitive approach to lie
detection can be divided into three broader techniques (Vrij, Fisher, Blank, Leal, & Mann, 2015).
The first technique relies on imposing cognitive load. This technique allows truth-tellers to draw
from their memory when providing an account, while leaving liars with fewer cognitive resources
with which to conceal their deception (Vrij, 2015). Tactics for imposing cognitive load include
asking the subject to repeat their narrative in reverse order (Ewens, Vrij, Mann, & Leal, 2016),
instructing them to maintain eye-contact with the interviewer (Vrij, Mann, Leal, & Fisher, 2010), and
using forced turn-taking when multiple suspects are interviewed together (Vernham, Vrij, Mann,
Leal, & Hillman, 2014). Each of these techniques have been shown to improve deception detection.
A second technique relies on the finding that liars generally report fewer details than truth
tellers (Ewens, Vrij, Mann, Leal, Jo, & Houston, 2017). This difference can be exploited by having
the subject listen to a “model statement” that requires them to increase the number of details
reported (Ewens, Vrij, Leal et al., 2016; Leal, Vrij, Warmelink, Vernham, & Fisher, 2015), or by
asking a subject to argue in favor of a personal opinion and then to argue against it (Leal, Vrij,
Mann, & Fisher, 2010). Other approaches have included introducing a supportive second
interviewer (Shaw et al., 2013; Mann et al., 2013), changing interviewers (Mann et al., 2014; Shaw,
Vrij, Leal, & Mann, 2014), and having the interviewee close their eyes during recall (Vrij, Mann,
Jundi, Hillman, & Hope, 2014). In addition, the Symptom Validity Test has been shown to
successfully identify liars who strategically avoid acknowledging crime-relevant information (Shaw,
Vrij, Mann, Leal, & Hillman, 2014).
Finally, a third technique draws on the finding that liars may only prepare answers to
questions they expect to be asked (Vrij et al., 2017; Vrij & Granhag, 2014). This technique has been
examined for distinguishing between true and false statements about future intentions (Granhag &
Mac Giolla, 2014; Vrij, Leal, Mann, & Granhag, 2011). Here the interviewer asks a combination of
questions that are likely to be anticipated and unanticipated by the interviewee. Unanticipated
questions allow truth-tellers to provide answers based on their memory, whereas liars are induced to
generate something plausible on the spot (Sooniste, Granhag, Strömwall, & Vrij, 2014; Shaw et al.,
2013). Asking unanticipated questions have shown to elicit more diagnostic cues from individuals
(Sooniste, Granhag, & Strömwall, 2015; Sooniste, Granhag, Strömwall, & Vrij, 2015) and small cells
of suspects (Sooniste, Granhag, Strömwall, & Vrij, 2014), but has proven less effective when
repeatedly interviewing the same suspect (Granhag, Mac Giolla, Sooniste, & Liu-Jonsson, 2016).
Evaluating the Influence of Culture and Language
Interrogation professionals, particularly those in military and intelligence contexts, often
request support in identifying tactics that will be effective across cultures and in the context of an
interpreter. HIG studies have investigated the influence of cultural variation in communication
(particularly in negotiated contexts that are relevant to interrogation), the extent to which cues to
credibility vary across cultures, and the influence of interpreters in an interrogation context.
Cultural variation in effective approaches to negotiation and interrogation
. HIG studies have
examined how cultures that vary along certain dimensions (e.g., collectivism-individualism, high vs.
low status, and equality) perceive one another via the stereotype content model – a model that posits
stereotypes relate to individuals’ perceptions of warmth and competence (Fiske, Xu, Cuddy, &
Glick, 1999). Such stereotype models can inform the social perception of subjects and interrogators
in cross-cultural contexts and therein facilitate the impression formation process (Fiske & Durante,
2016). With respect to effective communication and negotiation across cultures, research suggests
that approaches reflecting a “relational” honor model (i.e., highlighting moral integrity and the
protection of one’s image or strength) are more likely to lead to successful negotiation outcomes in
countries such as Egypt compared with a more traditional (Western) “rational” cognitive model
(Gelfand et al., 2015). Successful negotiations with subjects high in uncertainty avoidance (i.e., an
intolerance for unknown situations) appears to involve the use of more formal language that
includes reference to policies, procedures, and laws – and the use of such formal language by a
negotiator, regardless of cultural similarity, has been shown to facilitate alignment in communication
and therein predict successful negotiation outcomes (Giebels, Oostinga, Taylor, & Curtis, 2016).
Studies have also examined interrogators’ perceptions of the effectiveness of various
interrogation approaches across cultures. For example, interviews with experienced police and
military practitioners in Australia and southeast Asia suggest that while practitioners across these
cultures generally endorsed the importance of demonstrating respect, developing trust, and ensuring
procedural justice, certain cultures were more likely to endorse these strategies – particularly those
that are more individualistic, low in power-distance, and less uncertainty avoidant (Goodman-
Delahunty, 2015; Goodman-Delahunty, O’Brien, & Gumbert-Jourjon, 2013). A survey of
interrogators across 10 different countries indicated that professionals believed certain methods
(particularly Rapport and Relationship Building, Collaboration, and Confrontation/Competition
domains) are more effective within (rather than across) cultures, though this in-group bias was not
demonstrated for those who reported greater experience with other cultures (Kelly et al., 2015).
Assessing credibility across culture and language
. Researchers have been interested in
assessing the influence of culture on assessments of credibility (see Taylor, Larner, Conchie, & van
der Zee, 2014). Varying both sender and receiver culture, HIG studies have found very few
differences in deception detection performance as a function of in-group/out-group (Hwang &
Matsumoto, 2014). Further, studies have found that both culture and language generally fail to
moderate the predictive validity of certain cognitive and linguistic cues (Hwang, Matsumoto, &
Sandoval, 2016; Matsumoto & Hwang, 2015; Matsumoto, Hwang, & Sandoval, 2015a, 2015b).
Finally, studies have also examined the influence of primary vs. secondary language use on both
judgments of deception and cues to deception (Evans & Michael, 2014; Evans, Michael et al., 2013).
The challenges of using of interpreters
. In military and intelligence contexts, interrogators
often use interpreters to facilitate communication across languages. Surveys and interviews involving
both interpreters and interrogation professionals who frequently conduct interpreter-mediated
interviews have offered important insights. Interpreters overwhelmingly supported the efficacy of
Rapport and Relationship Building tactics, and viewed themselves as a valuable member of the team
for both facilitating communication and offering important cultural perspectives (Russano, Narchet,
& Kleinman, 2014). Practitioners, on the other hand, held a number of misconceptions regarding an
interpreter’s professional practice code of “neutrality,” and expressed concerns regarding a loss of
accuracy in information elicited and the extended duration of such interviews (Goodman-Delahunty
& Howes, 2017; Goodman-Delahunty & Martschuk, 2016).
Researchers have also conducted a number of experimental laboratory studies evaluating the
influence of interpreters on developing rapport, eliciting information, and assessing credibility. While
interpreters appear to both diminish the amount of information elicited and, at times, lessen the
prevalence of cognitive cues to deception, their presence has little or no influence on the
development of rapport (Ewens, Vrij, Leal et al., 2014) and the use of rapport tactics by an
interpreter can positively transfer to an interviewee’s perceptions of the interviewer (Houston,
Russano, & Ricks, 2017; see also Dhami, Goodman-Delahunty, & Desai, 2017). Studies have
examined the introduction of a model statement (Ewens, Vrij et al. 2016) and the use of reverse
order recall (Ewens, Vrij, Mann, & Leal, 2016) in interpreter-mediated interviews, demonstrating
increased information yield and the diagnostic utility of several cognitive cues to deception,
respectively. The influence of seating position has also been assessed, with studies finding both no
effects (Ewens, Vrij et al., 2017) and potential negative effects when the interpreter is seated behind
the interviewee (Houston et al., 2017).
Finally, differences between lay (or ad hoc) interpreters and trained professional interpreters
have also proven important to document. While trained interpreters were perceived as more
confident, likeable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable, untrained interpreters often failed to establish
ground rules, violated some ethical guidelines with respect to impartiality, and did not successfully
interpret all statements (Hale, Goodman-Delahunty, & Martschuk, 2017). Taken together, these
findings argue for the importance of using skilled interpreters and for recognizing the challenges of
potential information loss and fatigue in interpreter-mediated interviews.
Moving from “Research to Practice” – Training and Field Evaluations
Finally, a priority for the HIG has been the transition of research from the laboratory to the
field. To this end, several training studies have evaluated whether newly developed methods can be
effectively translated and trained to practitioners. In addition, collaborations between researchers,
experienced practitioners, and several federal training facilities have permitted an assessment of the
relative benefits of science-based methods when compared with existing practice.
Training studies
. Researchers have conducted a number of training studies to assess the
methods described above. For example, the Cognitive Interview was found to produce nearly 80%
more information when compared with a standard, 5-step interview method traditionally trained at
the U.S. Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (Rivard, Fisher, Robertson, & Mueller, 2014).
The ORBIT model was similarly evaluated when it was introduced to the UK’s national advanced
counterterrorism interviewing course. Trained interviewers demonstrated fewer maladaptive
interpersonal errors, used significantly more of the rapport-based components of the ORBIT model,
and extracted more information from detainees (Alison, Alison & Christiansen, 2017). With respect
to presenting evidence in both strategic and subtle ways that facilitate disclosure, a training
evaluation of the Strategic Use of Evidence with a sample of U.S. law enforcement professionals
showed that those trained in the method were successful in questioning a suspect systematically and
strategically disclosing their evidence, leading to better detection rates with respect to statement-
evidence consistency (Luke et al., 2016). Similarly, a sample of Norwegian police professionals
trained in the Scharff technique demonstrated successful use of the approach by establishing an
illusion of “knowing it all” and asking fewer direct questions, ultimately leading to the collection of
more information when compared with untrained counterparts (Oleszkiewicz, Granhag, &
Kleinman, 2017b). Finally, several training studies have evaluated the use of cognitive lie detection
methods. Across multiple studies, experienced police detectives trained in cognitive-based methods
demonstrated both an increased ability to detect deception and the effective and appropriate use
cognitive-based questioning techniques (Vrij et al., 2015; Vrij, Mann, et al., 2016).
Field validation and research-to-practice training modules
. Given the robust science
developed by HIG researchers over the past 7 years, together with a foundation of existing research
on best practices in investigative interviewing, the HIG has developed a one-week training course
that establishes a science-based model of interrogation. This course has been offered to more than
30 different U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with the HIG administering training
sessions about 15 times each year. A recent training and field evaluation was conducted on this
training program in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (Meissner,
Russano, et al., 2017). The findings offer strong support for a science-based model, demonstrating
that trained practitioners utilized the new techniques in suspect interrogations and that the use of
these techniques significantly increased both cooperation and information elicitation. In addition to
this one-week course, the HIG has supported the development of “research-to-practice” modules
that involve 2- or 3-day trainings on specific techniques. These modules are taught by researcher-
practitioner teams, and have included such topics as the Cognitive Interview, the Strategic Use of
Evidence, the Scharff technique, ORBIT and Motivational Interviewing Tactics, the use of rapport
and persuasion tactics, and cognitive approaches to credibility assessment.
Conclusions and Future Directions
Taken together, the HIG research program has clearly advanced our understanding of
effective interviewing and interrogation practices. Psychological science has substantiated the value
of rapport-based methods for developing cooperation with a subject, including the effectiveness of
Motivational Interviewing principles for facilitating conversational rapport and the use of both social
influence tactics and conceptual priming to reduce resistance. Research has also further substantiated
the importance of good questioning skills and the effectiveness of the Cognitive Interview for
eliciting more information from subjects. Studies have highlighted the most successful methods for
strategically presenting evidence to a subject to both assess credibility and facilitate disclosure,
including the use of subtle elicitation methods such as the Scharff technique. Finally, a new cognitive
approach to credibility assessment has been developed that both leverages a theoretical
understanding of the cognitive challenges of lying and offers a set of strategic interviewing
approaches that improve discrimination between liars and truth tellers. The effectiveness of these
methods has been shown across a range of methodologies, including recent training and field
validation studies that support their feasibility and effectiveness with professional interrogators in
real-world settings. In short, a science-based model of interrogation is beginning to replace outdated,
ineffective, and problematic methods that have traditionally pervaded interrogation training schools.
While much has been gained through the diverse research portfolio developed by the HIG,
we are only at the beginning of a renaissance in understanding effective interview and interrogation
approaches. We conclude our review by considering several avenues for future research that will
continue to advance both science and practice. In doing so, we contextualize these important
avenues of further inquiry with respect to key interrogation processes identified in Figure 2, and
consider factors that relate to the influence of culture or language, the translation of research to
practice, and other contextual variables that have been largely neglected by the literature.
. Although the HIG research program has demonstrated that rapport-based
approaches to interrogation are more effective than guilt-presumptive, accusatorial methods, there
remains a need to better understand the concept of rapport by disentangling it from related
constructs such as persuasion and trust. By theoretically distinguishing rapport and its related
concepts, researchers can develop more nuanced approaches to measuring and facilitating
cooperation across a variety of settings. It will also be critical to develop scales that allow for the
reliable and systematic measurement of rapport in the interview and interrogation context. Finally,
researchers should also consider conceptualizing psychological resistance in the interview and
interrogation context (cf. Fransen, Smit, & Verlegh, 2015; Knowles & Riner, 2007), and relating such
a taxonomy to effective approaches for developing rapport, trust, and ultimately cooperation.
. Further research is needed with respect to eliciting information, particularly with
regard to subtle elicitation. While we know much about how to facilitate memory recall and explicitly
encourage subjects to provide a complete and accurate account, we know less about how to collect
information when a subject’s aim is to mask the depth of their knowledge and to intentionally avoid
revealing critical information (i.e., an information management strategy). This could include how to
effectively “counter” a subject’s counter-interrogation strategies or to steer conversations without
explicitly introducing a topic of interest.
Evidence Presentation
. More than two decades of systematic research into the SUE
technique has resulted in a blueprint for strategically disclosing evidence to identify inconsistencies.
Less is known, however, with respect to the versatility and application of the Scharff technique. For
example, we know little about the threshold for establishing a ‘knowing-it-all’ story, or how different
settings (e.g., regulated, mundane) or situations (e.g., the interviewer cannot share information or the
subject holds details the interviewer could not possibly know) might affect the technique’s
‘illusionary’ effects. In addition, there are few studies investigating the combined effects of
establishing oneself as knowledgeable while strategically withholding key pieces of evidence. Given
the various contexts and situations in which human intelligence gathering occurs, this particular line
of research may offer substantial benefits to effective elicitation models.
Credibility Assessment
. While recent research has offered reliable cognitive methods for
eliciting cues to deceit, challenges remain with respect to developing effective interview and
interrogation approaches that facilitate credibility judgments. For example, little research exists
comparing statements of lies and truth told by the same individual (see Vrij, 2016), or involving
subjects who attempt to embed their lie in well-known frameworks (e.g., lying about people they
know). In addition, it will be important to evaluate the impact of scrutinizing the credibility of a
subject during an interrogation and understand how this might influence cooperation and disclosure.
On a related note, researchers have only recently begun to experimentally investigate the elicitation
of information from people who threaten to commit harm (Geurts, Granhag, Ask, & Vrij, 2016),
including distinctions in the strategies adopted by those who bluff and those who intend to actualize
their threat (Geurts, Ask, Granhag, & Vrij, 2016). Given the increasing importance of threat
assessment to modern policing, the development of evidence-based interview and interrogation
protocols in this area is critical (van der Meer & Diekhuis, 2014).
Training and Field Validation
. Researchers have begun to conduct systematic training and
field validations that demonstrate how evidence-based methods can improve practice. Future efforts
in this area should include evaluating the potential effectiveness of independent learning or web-
based delivery of training, as well as the longevity of training effects and the potential importance of
top-up training” over time. This research also relates to increasing our understanding of advancing
expert performance (Hoffman et al., 2013), which will ultimately assist trainers in transfering skills
without a concurrent decay in performance over time. Further research on the use of scenario-based
learning and “red team” exercises is also critical given the potential benefits of simulating the
context within which law enforcement, national security, and military personnel operate.
Culture and Language
. Practitioners have expressed interest in understanding the influence
of cultural variation on approaches that facilitate cooperation and disclosure; however, researchers
have only recently begun to address this topic. Much of the relevant cross-cultural literature is
situated within the negotiation setting – as such, future research must consider the extent to which
such findings will translate to the interview and interrogation context. Additional research is also
needed to understand the role of interpreters and their potential for positive vs. negative influence in
the interrogative context, including how they might facilitate cooperation with the subject via
cultural and linguistic similarity or the use of rapport-based tactics.
Additional Factors
. As a final note, we would like to propose several additional factors that
have received less attention but may prove rather important. First, the majority of studies on
interrogation have investigated single interviews contexts, thus excluding an understanding of
interviews conducted over time that may require promoting continued relationships (see, Granhag,
Kleinman, & Oleszkiewicz, 2016; Oleszkiewicz, Granhag, & Kleinman, 2017b). Second, both
criminal and intelligence interrogations often center on exposing information related to human
social networks; however, little research has focused on tactics or approaches that promote the
elicitation of information that may be distributed across persons. Third, to our knowledge there are
no studies that have empirically examined time critical interviews. Such interviews, often referred to
as ‘safety’, ‘imminent threat’, or ‘urgent’ interviews, are intense interactions that could include the
elicitation of life saving intelligence. Tactics related to the speedy development of rapport and
elicitation of such important information is vital to countering advocates of torture who regularly
reference the “ticking time bomb” scenario. Finally, effective critical thinking and decision skills are
necessary for any interviewer; however, few studies have examined interviewers’ naturalistic decision
making in the midst of an interrogation.
In closing, we believe that the HIG research program has offered an unprecedented
opportunity for scholars in this area to develop a “science of interviewing and interrogation” that is
now beginning to influence training and practice both in the U.S. and around the world. Built upon
a foundation of psychological research that identified many of the challenges of forensic
interviewing, this program has facilitated the development of effective practices for developing
cooperation and rapport, eliciting information, challenging inconsistencies by presenting evidence or
information, and assessing credibility using cognitive cues and strategic questioning tactics. The
program has also begun to offer a nuanced understanding of the influence of culture and language,
and it has both challenged and facilitated scholars’ ability to move this research from the laboratory
to the field. Researcher-practitioner partnerships have served as a cornerstone of the HIG research
program, including important relationships that have been developed with federal training facilities
and training personnel. Additional research that addresses the issues identified above is vital to
sustaining the positive momentum that has developed and to offering a coherent and effective
model of interrogation that is legal, ethical, and evidence-based.
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Figure 1. Translational approach taken by High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group Research
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Figure 2. Primary interrogation processes explored by psychological researchers, including the
moderating influence of culture and language.
... inviting suspects to provide an FA may, in these professionals' opinion, result in obtaining 'merely a shallow story'; subsequent attempts to obtain more detailed and specific information, which is often required in criminal investigations, may then result in suspects only 'referring back' to their initial 'shallow' account, instead of elaborating on it. Meissner et al. (2017) report that among practitioners in North America there is a popular belief that exerting more control facilitates the obtaining of self-incriminating information from suspects, such as confessions. Therefore, it is not surprising that alongside the guidance that recommends starting with an FA invitation, there are other approaches that do not mention such a start. ...
... The idea that an interview with a suspect should not begin with an FA invitation seems to stem from the popular beliefs mentioned above: self-incriminating information from suspects, such as confessions, can more easily be obtained if the interviewer exerts more control (Meissner et al., 2017). Some field studies do indicate that this may indeed be the case (Meissner et al., 2014), but at the cost of obtaining not only true confessions, but also false confessions or confessions of poor diagnostic value (Meissner et al., 2017). ...
... The idea that an interview with a suspect should not begin with an FA invitation seems to stem from the popular beliefs mentioned above: self-incriminating information from suspects, such as confessions, can more easily be obtained if the interviewer exerts more control (Meissner et al., 2017). Some field studies do indicate that this may indeed be the case (Meissner et al., 2014), but at the cost of obtaining not only true confessions, but also false confessions or confessions of poor diagnostic value (Meissner et al., 2017). ...
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Asking suspects for a free account (FA) at the start of an interview is considered good practice in a growing number of police organisations, whereas in others it still is not commonplace. This study explored whether interviews with or without such an invitation yielded more information from guilty suspects. Students in safety and security committed a mock crime and were then interviewed using a strategy of gradual disclosure of evidence, in the experimental condition preceded with an FA invitation (n = 20) and without such an invitation in the control condition (n = 17). On average, relatively little information was collected in the FA phase and far more in the subsequent gradual disclosure phase. However, the FA condition yielded seven confessions, four of which were given already in the FA phase. The No FA condition yielded only two confessions. Other differences in yield were not found. These findings indicate that an FA invitation could lead to some relevant and important information, such as a confession, being gathered already at an early stage of an interview, and that such an invitation does not hamper the gathering of further information later in the interview.
... Meissner has evaluated the deception detection and interviewing/interrogation literatures, including conducting several metaanalyses in this area (Meissner & Kassin, 2002;Meissner et al., 2017;Snook et al., 2021). He has also co-organized a conference sponsored by the American Psychological Association on investigative interviewing. ...
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This is the protocol for a Campbell systematic review. The objective is to assess the effects of interrogation approach on confession outcomes for criminal (mock) suspects.
... When it comes to questioning suspects in police custody, a distinction has been made between an accusatorial and an information-gathering approach. According to Meissner et al. (2017), accusatorial approaches: are generally characterized as both guilt presumptive and confession-focused. Interrogators typically seek to establish control over the suspect, use questions that confirm what they believe to be true, and assess credibility based upon nonverbal indicators and the suspect's level of anxiety in response to questioning. ...
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Over the past decades, the psychological science has accumulated a large corpus of empirical knowledge about police interviews, deception detection, and suspects’ confessions. However, it is unclear whether European police forces’ practices and beliefs are consistent with recommendations derived from this empirical literature. The study described in this report is part of a larger research project examining European police investigators’ practices and beliefs. An online survey was administered to Guardia Civil (n = 89) and Policía Nacional investigators (n = 126). The survey inquired about the length, frequency and electronic recording of interviews, the suspects’ use of their right to remain silent, investigators’ self-reported skills in distinguishing between truthful and deceptive statements, their estimates of the frequency of (false) confessions, and their use of specific interview tactics. The outcomes provide insights into investigators’ knowledge and practices, highlight specific needs, and allow for a comparison between European and North American police forces.
... Since the introduction of PEACE, considerable research has led to the development and refinement of science-based interviewing in the U.S. (Meissner et al., 2017). Based on such work, scholars have proposed a framework that is built upon rapport-based, informationgathering techniques . ...
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Interviewing and interrogation practices have evolved over the past century. “Third degree” methods of physical and psychological coercion were replaced by psychologically-manipulative tactics that seek a confession; however, it was not until instances of false confession that led to wrongful conviction came to light that investigative interviewing begin to transition from accusatorial methods to science-based approaches. In this chapter, we review the coercive interrogation methods of the past and their influence on false confessions. We then explore science-based interviewing, discussing the benefits of productive questioning tactics, memory-based tactics, rapport-based approaches, strategic presentation of evidence, and strategic questioning to assess credibility. To conclude, we discuss the need for collaborations between practitioners and researchers as the field shifts to a comprehensive science-based interviewing model.
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Investigative interviews (e.g., interrogations) are a critical component of criminal, military, and civil investigations. However, how levels of alertness (vs. sleepiness) of the interviewer impact outcomes of actual interviews is unknown. To this end, the current study tracked daily fluctuations in alertness among professional criminal investigators to predict their daily experiences with actual field interviews. Fifty law-enforcement investigators wore a sleep-activity tracker for two weeks while keeping a daily-diary of investigative interviews conducted in the field. For each interview, the investigators indicated how well they established rapport with the subject, how much resistance they encountered, how well they maintained their own focus and composure, and the overall utility of intelligence obtained. Daily alertness was biomathematically modeled from actigraphic sleep duration and continuity estimates and used to predict interview characteristics. Investigators consistently reported more difficulties maintaining their focus and composure as well as encountering more subject resistance during interviews on days with lower alertness. Better interview outcomes were also reported on days with subjectively better sleep, while findings were generally robust to inclusion of covariates. The findings implicate adequate sleep as a modifiable fitness factor for collectors of human intelligence.
Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that naturally occurs as a part of social interactions. While commonly regarded as immoral and harmful, manipulation is influence that is different from coercion and rational persuasion. Acts of manipulation can sometimes be beneficial and lead to positive outcomes, which renders the concept ethically ambiguous, especially when viewed in relation to fields like human intelligence (HUMINT). This essay will focus on manipulative influence in the HUMINT context, flesh out its characteristics and relate it to ethical principles in order to explore the difference between legitimate (harmless) and illegitimate (harmful) forms of manipulation.
Most studies of confession during police interrogation have looked at the influence of various individual factors on the prevalence and probability of confession, neglecting potential interactions between factors and the possibility of combined influence on the suspect’s decision to confess or not. To bridge this gap, the present study proposes using a profile-based approach, rather than the much more common variable-based approach, to analyze potential interaction effects, the hierarchical relationship between factors, and the relative weight of each profile/combinaisons of factors in the suspect’s decision-making process. The study is based on self-reported data from a sample of 211 inmates incarcerated in a Canadian federal penitentiary. Results highlight different profiles of factors that play a role in the decision-making process and in the prevalence of confession, particularly the importance of situational factors and the key role of the interrogators. Decisional profiles and the strength of significant factors are discussed in light of the current knowledge on confession and the practical implication of the results for police interrogations is examined. The relevance of decision tree analyses for the field of investigative interviewing is discussed.
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Over the last 30 years deception researchers have changed their attention from observing nonverbal behaviour to analysing speech content. However, many practitioners we speak to are reluctant to make the change from nonverbal to verbal lie detection. In this article we present what practitioners believe is problematic about verbal lie detection: the interview style typically used is not suited for verbal lie detection; the most diagnostic verbal cue to deceit (total details) is not suited for lie detection purposes; practitioners are looking for signs of deception but verbal deception researchers are mainly examining cues that indicate truthfulness; cut-off points (decision rules to decide when someone is lying) do not exist; different verbal indicators are required for different types of lie; and verbal veracity indicators may be culturally defined. We discuss how researchers could address these problems. © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
The introduction of Criteria-Based Content Analysis (CBCA), a verbal veracity assessment tool to assess (child) sexual abuse cases, changed the focus from nonverbal lie detection to verbal lie detection. However, CBCA has shortcomings. We first introduce CBCA together with four shortcomings. We then discuss researchers’ efforts to resolve these shortcomings. In summary, the four shortcomings and resolutions are as follows: First, CBCA-coding is complicated, but a less complicated method, called Reality Monitoring, is available. Second, all CBCA criteria are cues to truthfulness (cues more frequently reported by truth tellers than by lie tellers) and researchers are currently examining cues to deceit. Third, CBCA employs a passive interview protocol but active interview tools that exploit differences between truth tellers and lie tellers in their cognitive processing and their strategies to appear sincere have been introduced. Fourth, CBCA does not have cut-off scores for making truth/lie decisions and researchers are currently developing within-subjects measures to resolve this problem.
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This chapter reviews the attempts of police to elicit confessions to child and adult sexual assault through standard police interrogation and through the use of alleged victims or associates of alleged victims as surrogate interrogators. Specifically, we describe the use of “pretext calls” (otherwise known as “cold” “controlled” “one party consent” "ruse" or “confrontational” calls) made by victims or their associates at the behest of police. We describe commonalities and differences in the strategies employed by police interrogators and pretext callers, and the synergy between them. We further address reactions of suspects to each, as well as reactions of observers to admissions made in each context.
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Purpose. In previous laboratory-based work, the Scharff technique has proved successful for gathering intelligence from human sources. However, little is known about whether the technique can be taught to practitioners, and whether Scharff-trained practitioners will interview more effectively than colleagues using their conventional approaches and tactics. Method. We examined professional handlers from the Norwegian Police (n = 64), all experienced in interacting with informants. Half received training in the Scharff technique, and their performance was compared against handlers receiving no Scharff training and free to use the approaches they saw fit. All handlers received the same case file describing a source holding information about a future terrorist attack and were given the same interview objectives. Police trainees (n = 64) took on the role of semicooperative sources and were given incomplete information about the attack. Results. The trained handlers adhered to the Scharff training as they (1) aimed to establish the illusion of 'knowing-it-all', (2) posed claims to collect information, and (3) asked few (if any) explicit questions. In contrast, the untrained handlers tried to evoke the sources' motivation to reveal information and asked a high number of explicit questions. Scharff-trained handlers were perceived as less eager to gather information, but collected comparatively more new information. Conclusions. The Scharff-trained interviewers utilized more specific elicitation tactics (e.g., posing claims) and fewer general interview strategies (e.g., evoking motivation), and they collected comparatively more new information. This captures the essence of the Scharff technique: It is subtle, yet effective. Gathering information from human sources is a fundamental and unceasing endeavour in the prevention of crime. However, researchers have only recently begun to develop and evaluate methods for gathering human intelligence (Evans et al.,
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Research on investigative interviewing has only recently started to compare the efficacy of different techniques for gathering intelligence from human sources. So far the research has focused exclusively on sources interviewed once, thus overlooking that most sources are interviewed multiple times. The present study attempts to remedy this gap in the literature. Students (N = 66) took on the role of semi-cooperative sources, holding incomplete information about an upcoming terrorist attack. The sources were informed that they would be interviewed at least once, and that additional interviews might follow. Half of the sources were interviewed on three occasions with the Scharff technique (consisting of five tactics), and the other half was interviewed on three occasions using the so-called Direct Approach (i.e., open-ended and specific questions). Collapsing the outcome over the three interviews, the Scharff technique resulted in significantly more new information compared to the Direct Approach. Furthermore, sources interviewed by the Direct Approach overestimated how much new information they had revealed, whereas the sources interviewed by the Scharff technique underestimated their contribution (although not significantly so). The current study advances previous research by further contextualizing the tests of the efficacy of human intelligence gathering techniques.
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While research on interrogation has traditionally focused on problematic practices that lead to false confessions, more recent research has addressed the need to develop scientifically validated techniques that lead to accurate information from both suspects and sources. In the present review, we summarize this recent research on building and maintaining rapport, eliciting information, presenting evidence, and assessing credibility. Research is described in the context of accusatorial (guilt-presumptive and psychologically manipulative) versus information-gathering (cooperative and evidence based) approaches to interviewing and interrogation. We also suggest future directions for research to continue to improve the efficacy of interviews and interrogations.
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This study is the first to investigate police investigators’ adherence to, and the effectiveness of, a training program for detecting true and false intentions. Experienced police investigators (N = 53) were either trained or not trained in how to interview to discriminate between true and false intentions. All investigators interviewed mock suspects (N = 53), of which half lied and half told truth about their intentions. Both subjective and objective measures showed that the trained investigators interviewed in line with the training received. That is, a large proportion asked about the planning of the stated intentions. Noteworthy, none of untrained investigators reported to have posed such questions for strategic purposes. The trained investigators reached a higher detection accuracy level (65 %) than their untrained colleagues (55 %), however not significantly. Given that the investigators adhered to the training, this training package is a viable starting point for developing more effective training programs.
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The present study examines non-coercive interview techniques aimed for eliciting intelligence from human sources. Two versions of the Scharff technique were compared against the direct approach (a combination of open-ended and specific questions). The Scharff conditions were conceptualised into four tactics and differed with respect to when the confirmation tactic was implemented: before or after an initial open-ended question. Participants (n = 93) took the role of a source in a phone interview and were instructed to strike a balance between not revealing too little or too much information. In general, the Scharff technique outperformed the direct approach on all important measures. The sources in the Scharff conditions revealed more new information, and found it more difficult to understand the interviewer's information objectives. Importantly, the sources interviewed by the Scharff technique underestimated how much new information they revealed, whereas the sources interviewed by the direct approach overestimated the amount of new information revealed. Although no clear order effects of the Scharff tactics were found, we introduce an alternative method for implementing the confirmation tactic. © 2015 The Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law
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The cultural diversity of people encountered by front-line investigators has increased substantially over the last decade. Increasingly, investigators must try to resolve their suspicions by evaluating a person's behaviour through the lens of that person's social and cultural norms. In this chapter, we consider what is known about cross-cultural deception and deception detection. In the first section, we examine cultural differences in perceptions of deception and review evidence suggesting that the accuracy of deception judgements deteriorates when made across cultures. We examine the roots of this poor performance, showing how eight cultural norms lead to behaviours that appear suspicious to judges from other cultures. In the second section, we review evidence suggesting that verbal and non-verbal cues to deception vary across cultures. In particular, we show that the observed variation in cues is consistent with, and can be predicted by, what is known about cultural differences in fundamental interpersonal and cognitive processes. In our conclusion, we speculate about likely areas of development in this line of research.
Recently, a variety of methods have been used to show that unconscious processes can boost lie detection accuracy. This article considers the latest developments in the context of research into unconscious cognition. Unconscious cognition has been under attack in recent years because the findings do not replicate, and when they do reliably improve performance they fail to exclude the possibility that conscious processing is at work. Here we show that work into unconscious lie detection suffers from the same weaknesses. Future research would benefit from taking a stronger theoretical stance and explicitly attempting to exclude conscious processing accounts.
This is the most comprehensive, and most comprehensively chilling, study of modern torture yet written. Darius Rejali, one of the world's leading experts on torture, takes the reader from the late nineteenth century to the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, from slavery and the electric chair to electrotorture in American inner cities, and from French and British colonial prison cells and the Spanish-American War to the fields of Vietnam, the wars of the Middle East, and the new democracies of Latin America and Europe.As Rejali traces the development and application of one torture technique after another in these settings, he reaches startling conclusions. As the twentieth century progressed, he argues, democracies not only tortured, but set the international pace for torture. Dictatorships may have tortured more, and more indiscriminately, but the United States, Britain, and France pioneered and exported techniques that have become the lingua franca of modern torture: methods that leave no marks. Under the watchful eyes of reporters and human rights activists, low-level authorities in the world's oldest democracies were the first to learn that to scar a victim was to advertise iniquity and invite scandal. Long before the CIA even existed, police and soldiers turned instead to "clean" techniques, such as torture by electricity, ice, water, noise, drugs, and stress positions. As democracy and human rights spread after World War II, so too did these methods.Rejali makes this troubling case in fluid, arresting prose and on the basis of unprecedented research--conducted in multiple languages and on several continents--begun years before most of us had ever heard of Osama bin Laden or Abu Ghraib. The author of a major study of Iranian torture, Rejali also tackles the controversial question of whether torture really works, answering the new apologists for torture point by point. A brave and disturbing book, this is the benchmark against which all future studies of modern torture will be measured.