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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.

You May Not Be A Successful Interviewer If …

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

You are unacquainted with the case details. Efforts at “winging it” in the interview room or going on a “fishing expedition” very rarely produces positive results.  You should always approach every interview with the “construction of proof” as your objective.  That’s for all interviews – victims, witnesses, suspects, applicants, informants, petitioners, etc.

You approach your subject with an assumption of guilt. No one can be truly objective when they enter the interview room but by assuming guilt, we typically ignore asking the questions or hearing  answers that might challenge and even threaten our pre- conceptions.

You use an “accusatory style” interview. An accusatory style tends to “drive” the interview in only one direction and rarely uncovers new or additional information. It also seldom generates cooperation from victims or witnesses and compliance from subjects.  An accusatory approach is also notorious for generating contaminated statements.

You frequently interrupt your subject. Any interview as well as an interrogation is far from being successful without active, participatory listening by the interviewer. Frequent interruption cuts off the flow of conversation and ultimately information.

You are repetitive in your questioning or labor over the same line of questioning. Persistent questioning from a single narrow perspective tends to frustrate even the cooperative subject – it tends to lock their reasoning and thinking process into one line of thought.  Varying your approach, method of framing a question, and using a more narrative-based approach results in content rich statements and cooperative subjects.

Note: Once the interview starts out bad, it rarely ever improves.