Interviewing techniques to secure co-operation by high value detainees

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, Natalie Martschuk, Mandeep Dhami

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (non-public)


Many practitioners are skeptical about the effectiveness of rapport-building and information-gathering approaches in police interviews in high-stakes (terror-related) cases. This mixed-method study explored the usefulness of four types of coercive and noncoercive interview strategies (legalistic, physical, cognitive and social) in facilitating disclosure by high value detainees. An international sample of practitioners (59.0%; n = 46) and detainees (41.0%; n = 32) from East Asian and Western jurisdictions reported their experiences in suspect and nonsuspect interviews. Most suspect interviews were conducted in multiple sessions, with wide variability in interview duration between jurisdictions. As anticipated, coercive strategies were more prevalent in suspect (49.3%) than nonsuspect interviews (5.6%), and were correlated with accusatorial interview methods, whereas forms of social persuasion were negatively correlated with an accusatorial approach. Detainees were more likely to cooperate in response to an information-gathering than an accusatorial interview (OR = 6.8) and when they were not confronted with evidence (OR = 5.8). When rapport-building strategies were used and when they were not deceived, they were more likely to disclose meaningful information (OR = 5.5) earlier in the interview (OR = 7.8). Disclosures were more reliable and complete in response to noncoercive strategies, especially social strategies of rapport-building and reciprocity. Physical coercion, intimidation and deception were the reasons most frequently cited for providing false information. Similar strategies were effective across all jurisdictions and interview settings, in suspect and nonsuspect interviews. The findings augmented past theory and the evidence-base of international best practices in interviews with high value detainees.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUS Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group
Commissioning bodyUnited States High Value Detainee Interrogation Group and the Center for Law and Human Behavior
Number of pages182
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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