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Interrogation: How to Avoid Interrogation Failure

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

Any interrogation can fail but do you know why? If we can figure out the root cause or causes of interrogation failure you can avoid those pitfalls and improve your chances of success in the future. Let’s first establish what we mean by interrogation failure. If you don’t get a confession from a suspect who is guilty – that’s a failure.  If you get a confession from a person who is not guilty – that’s definitely an interrogation failure!  Next it’s important to recognize one common element to these two outcomes – it’s the interrogator’s fault. What are those pitfalls that are keeping us from finding the truth?


One way to avoid interrogation failure is to beware of the “pre- conception assassin.” If you enter the room believing the subject is going to lie, you’ll miss the truth.  If you believe the person is going to be honest you’ll may see lies as being the truth.  No matter which pre-conception you’ve developed you’ll wind up only asking questions whose answers support your predetermined bias. The “pre-conception assassin will kill your interrogation every time!


If you misdiagnose your subject as being either truthful or deceptive, the interrogation will fail.  You can avoid this pitfall first by knowing the commonly held myths about lie signs.  Some common myths about lying including poor eye contact, eye movement, crossing arms or legs, fidgeting, sweating, lots of ah, er, umm, and uh just to name a few.  If you don’t know the few reliable signs of deception you are going to misinterpret the behaviors of the victim, witness or suspect and diagnose them as being deceptive and ultimately miss the truth.  Your interrogation has failed.  There could be nothing worse than telling the truth and nobody will listen to you or believe you.


Interrogation is just not simply talking to people and ultimately they confess.  Recent research just published in the last couple of months has shown that the interrogator’s tactics and style has a direct effect on the outcome of the interrogation.  Now that sounds a little obvious until you read the research a little further.  An accusatory style results on less information, diminished cooperation, a greatly reduced number of lie cues from a deceptive subject and another failed interrogation because you’ve missed the truth.  The narrative based interrogation has once again been proven to be the most effective and productive technique for finding and uncovering the truth.


The next time your interrogation fails, look for these three factors. If you know why an interrogation fails, how the three pitfalls contribute to its failure, and the steps to take to avoid the pitfalls your interrogation success will dramatically improve.  You improvement will be measured not in terms of confessions but in the amount of truthful information you’ve uncovered.

Interviewing: My Subject Won’t Talk

Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

A frequent frustration many interviewers face is the inability to get the subject to talk to them. Obviously in any investigation if the person we’re talking with is the subject of that investigation he or she would be better advised not to talk to us anyway. But how do we not only get the subject to talk to us but also the uncooperative victim or witness?


We can certainly lay a lot of blame at the feet of the uncooperative person but that will get us no closer to the critical information that he or she has chosen to withhold.   Our objective is to find the truth and blaming the subject and giving up our pursuit of the truth is not an acceptable option.  Half of the responsibility for the failure of a subject to talk lies with the interviewer. We can’t expect a person to talk to us merely because we’re the interviewer.


First, if we intend to persuade a subject to talk we’ve got to do a better job of demonstrating to them that they are a critical element in the investigation.  To do this we have to present the evidence of the  ‘problem’ in a form that grabs their intellectual attention. That means for each personality type (emotion, sensory, logic and ego dominant) we have a different ‘problem presentation.’ We present the problem one small piece at a time slowly demonstrating the emotion dominant’s connection to the case while for the sensory type we’re going to have to work in a more tangible form by pointing out specific victim or witness statements and similar snippets of evidence.  For the logic dominant we’re going to have to present the threads of argument that demonstrate ‘why’ the subject is linked to the problem while the ego dominant will respond when they are made to believe that everyone needs to made to understand his or her brilliance and mental prowess.


Our task at attempting to stimulate our subject to talk is not yet quite complete.  We’ve got to further agitate our subject into a taking a personal interest in their position as being a directly involved party in a problem that requires their attention.  Obviously the emotion dominant subject is going to respond to emotion- based ‘color commentary.’  The sensory dominant is further pulled into the conversation when we make them realize that the evidence they are involved cannot be denied and we’re going to keep reminding them of that.  The logic dominant will be unable to resist the weight of the proof that they are linked to the case – the logical argument is just too strong and won’t be ignored.  The ego dominant is significantly motivated to talk when they feel that they have been betrayed or used by the ungrateful and unworthy people who they believe have benefited from his efforts or are trying to destroy him because their jealous of his success.


Next time your subject seems not to want to talk, think about more than just impressing with your title or what their punishment could be for their actions.  You are more likely to get some form of response from you subject when you frame the problem in their intellectual format and agitate them to action by personalizing this issue on their level.