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In this issue (August 2019):
This study investigated the influence of helpfulness priming on information disclosure. Participants (N = 115) assumed the role of an informant with information about an impending terrorist attack. Subsequently, an interviewer solicited information about the attack using an interview protocol that displayed either high (helpfulness-focused) or low (control) fit with helpfulness. Before the interview, in an ostensibly unrelated experiment, priming of participants’ helpfulness was performed and we assessed cognitive helpfulness accessibility. Priming and interview style did not, individually or in combination, significantly influence information disclosure. However, follow-up analyses showed that the helpfulness-focused interview style was counterproductive— decreasing information disclosure—when interviewees’ helpfulness accessibility was low. This research suggests that interview styles that do not match the interviewees’ temporary (e.g., primed) or chronic (e.g., personal values) level of helpfulness motivation are potentially maladaptive and may counteract the goal of increasing information disclosure.
Forensic interviewing forms an integral part of a police/law enforcement officer’s main duties and responsibilities. However, not every interviewer possesses suitable interview skills to be able to complete this effectively and despite the introduction of the PEACE model of interviewing, with the last ‘E’ focusing specifically on ‘Evaluation’, this stage of the interview model rarely gets the attention it deserves. This is concerning given the need for forensic interviews to be ethical, productive and admissible. The Forensic Interview Trace (FIT) is a recently developed tool designed to record all aspects of a forensic interview including questioning, interviewee responses and interview/interviewee characteristics. The development of this tool is considered within the context of a forensic interview and in comparison to similar tools, namely the Griffiths Question Map (GQM). Whilst still in its infancy and requiring empirical testing and validation, it is anticipated that the FIT will assist with the effective evaluations of forensic interviews in order to ensure compliance with relevant guidance and legislation, as well as ensuring that effective interview skills pertain to best practice.
Competent investigative interviewing skills are key to securing reliable information from victims, witnesses, informants, and suspects. Information obtained in interviews often plays an important role in directing an investigation, informing effective decision-making, promoting efficient allocation of resources, as well as securing reliable prosecutions and mitigating risk of miscarriages of justice. However, effective investigative interviewing is a complex skill to master; demanding a sound understanding of the many cognitive, social, and environmental factors that influence the content and accuracy of witness and suspect accounts (Gabbert & Hope, 2018; Hope & Gabbert, 2019). To ensure that investigative interviewing and intelligence gathering produces usable, credible, and reliable information in an effective and ethically defensible manner, training and practice must be evidence-based. This short article outlines how practitioners, trainers and policy makers can navigate the best available research evidence to evaluate ‘what works?’ in investigative interviewing.
Controlled studies have demonstrated that guilt-presumptive questions usually accompany interviewer guilt bias and accusatory behaviours towards a suspect. When evaluating police-suspect interviews, however, conventional methods primarily focus on the appropriateness of questions, and guilt-presumption is not featured as a questioning strategy. Instead, guilt-presumptive utterances are aggregated with other types of inappropriate opinion statements. There is often more happening within an interview than is immediately identifiable by simply focusing on question types. Examining the interactivity and behaviours that lead to accusations can reveal subtleties that have a profound influence on the flow and outcome of the interview. To demonstrate this, we analysed six interviews from a single Dutch murder investigation for guilt-presumptive language (accusations and insinuations of guilt) and question appropriateness. We then analysed the police-suspect interactions within the interview that occurred prior to, and immediately after the guilt-presumptive language was used. The findings demonstrated that accusations prompted suspect denials, facilitated a drastic decline in suspect cooperation, and impeded the ability for interviewers to gain investigation relevant information (IRI). We argue that more applied research on guilt-presumptive language is needed in the investigative interviewing literature, particularly in the context of biased decision-making regarding questioning strategies.
In some murder cases the location of the victim’s body is unknown. In these circumstances, the information provided by the murderer can be the key to locating the victim’s body. In this paper we report the findings of 11 semi-structured interviews with homicide investigators who have worked on missing body homicide cases. Investigators were asked about their critical decision points, and how interviews in these cases should be conducted. Four main themes were identified from the interviews. These were; (a) establishing rapport; (b) strategies for gaining information about the site location; (c) strategies for checking suspect veracity; and, (d) impediments to the interview process. This study provides a research base to inform how homicide interviews are conducted in these cases and suggests a lack of a direct evidence-base for interviewing in these cases.