Gotcha. New police interview technique


In the A2 Crime course we look at Interview and Negotiation techniques and investigate which ones are effective at soliciting the most information out of witnesses to an offence.

Shifting uncomfortably in your seat? Stumbling over your words? Can’t hold your questioner’s gaze? Police interviewing strategies place great emphasis on such visual and speech-related cues, although new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and undertaken by academics at the University of Portsmouth casts doubt on their effectiveness. However, the discovery that placing additional mental stress on interviewees could help police identify deception has attracted interest from investigators in the UK and abroad.

When I teach this area we cover the Cognitive Interview Technique which has four parts to help elicit as much information as possible from the witness or person being questioned and it is structured in such a way that it should be possible to pick up on any anomalies which might signify deception. Therefore, there’s nothing new to the idea of getting witnesses to tell the story in a differing order.

Basically, the research suggests that putting people who are being interviewed under increased cognitive load can help identify those people who are lying. Telling a lie – especially an intricate web of lies to cover up a crime can take a massive amount of cognitive effort so by upping the stakes by asking them to tell the story in reverse order there is a greater chance that they will make a mistake.

There have been a few stories in the media about this new technique with the Times and Daily Telegraph which have also highlighted the use of this new technique in identifying those people telling porkie-pies! There’s two really great overviews of the current research over at the Deception Blog and Mind Hacks.

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