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Interviewing: Commitment, Consistency & Influence

by Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

Psychologists have long recognized that one of the most powerful and central motivators of human action is the desire for consistency which is cemented when an individual makes some form of commitment.  Once we have made a choice or take a stand we will convince ourselves we made the correct choice often even in the face of strong external pressures.  Our willingness to believe that we made the correct decision when faced with a difficult choice leads us to make subsequent choices consistent with our initial decision.  This protects us from having to repeat the same emotionally or even mentally stressing process all over again.

As an interviewer, I can use the power of “consistency” and “commitment” to direct future actions of my subject.  If I can get you to make a stand or “go on the record” I have set the stage for nearly automatic consistency with that earlier commitment.  From the initiation point of the interview – before I even begin to pursue my construction of proof –  I get my subject to start with a statement of commitment.  I may work to get you to agree that for the purpose of protecting your best interests you must promise me in some way to tell the truth about all the details.

Another possible commitment technique may be to get my subject to make small commitments to insignificant or minor damaging elements of my case.  Perhaps he has seen the car in question used in the robbery   or perhaps may have even ridden in the car a few times maybe even on the day of the robbery.  Perhaps she knows the user name and password for her office mate’s computer account because it was left out or maybe even used it once to help her out.  Perhaps they have been in the house, talked to the victim once, looked in the safe, thought about how “it” could have been done.  Once I get a small concession or “commitment” that in some way no matter how small, I am already on the road to eliciting consistent compliance from my subject.

Look for any subtle method you can use to get even the smallest “commitments” from you subject.  You’ll find that through the powerful mechanism of the human desire for consistency you’ll be on the road to compliance and will get more and faster results from your subject.

Scarcity – A Tool of Influence

by Stan B. Walters
“The Lie Guy®”

How often have each of us encountered the subject in our interview room who even after being faced with the nearly undeniable facts proving their involvement in the incident we are investigating, appears to be completely unmovable in their determination not to admit to their actions. We often feel that such moments could turn into fruitless “yes you will – no I won’t” situations. We can literally almost see, feel and even hear the admission or confession within our grasp. How can we persuade the subject to take the one last step to acceptance? The answer may be found in a simple tool of human influence – scarcity.

Experts in the field of study known as human influence tell us that for many people the idea of any form of potential loss plays a very large role in human decision making. It can have such an enormous motivating affect on us that we can become so focused on what we may lose that people have been to known to forget about gaining something else of equal or greater value. This basic tool of influence can be easily employed as an effective interview and interrogation tool.

We have all seen ads that pronounce “For a Limited Time Only”, “While Supplies Last”, “For The First Fifty Customers.” Think of how easily this can be translated for our needs as interviewers. After having placed ourselves in the position of authority, perhaps you want to impress on you subject that once the case moves on to the next level there may be little either you or your subject can do to control what happens next. If he or she leaves today without making their statement then all the rumors will start that will certainly not be fair to the subject.

Your subject could be reminded that at this moment they may be able to have some influence on their fate. They could resign now or wait until they are fired and it goes on their record. We want to create in the subject a sense of urgency. That for the subject, the time to act is now before events spiral out of control such that no one can affect the outcome. He or she can be made to feel that few if anyone outside of you as the interviewer could possibly be on the side of the subject, would be willing to listen to their position or to or even not tell others about the subject true feelings or actions.

By using scarcity as a tool of influence we are not offering leniency. We are not promising the subject that there will be no punishment for their actions or behavior. We are certainly going to be cautious that we are not eliciting a false confession. We are only reinforcing the subject’s desire to avoid losing all control of the situation, it’s outcome or future circumstances. What is your subject most early of losing at the risk of giving up what they could possibly gain by continuing to resist facing the truth.