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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.

Interrogation: A Battle of Persuasion

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

For most interviewers, their concept of interrogation is that all they have to do is present the facts and the subject will just collapse under the weight of proof.  Interrogation is a little more complex than making a good argument that a person is deceptive.  It is a back and forth battle of persuasion and decision-making.


The battle of persuasion goes both ways.  On one side, by deception, your subject is trying to get you to change your point of view that they may be responsible for some inappropriate act or behavior. The more persuasive and convincing the better the chance the subject has at getting away with their deception. On the other side, you as the interviewer are trying to persuade the individual that their attempt at deception is not being successful and therefore they must accept your evidence of proof and change their position on the issue.


The interviewer needs to remember however, that the main reason a person chooses to lie is for some perceived personal benefits or to avoid some type of punishment.  A person will also confess for the very same reasons – they will confess when they perceive it will be beneficial to them.  They are not just confessing because the proof is there although that is part of the equation.  Think about it. The only time you change your mind about a previous decision you have made is when someone or something has overwhelming convinced you or persuaded you to believe that the new position, point of view or decision is far better than the previous  The better job you do as an interviewer convincing your subject of the very distinct differences between those two points  the easier you will make it for your subject to change rejection to admission or confession.


Don’t totally focus your efforts on just getting a subject to confess. Persuade them that admitting to the truth is far more acceptable and advantageous for them than sticking to their deception.