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The Narrative-Based Interview: Filtering Technique

Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

It is now no secret that a narrative-based interview is the most productive and successful interview technique over the more restrictive accusatory style.  Some of the most recent social psychological research has shown that the narrative process generates not only more information but also has the benefit of stimulating more deception cues if the victim, witness or suspect attempts to mislead the interviewer.  Perhaps another side benefit may be that this technique also allows the interviewer to use a progressive “filter” to help isolate those deception cues for further attention during the cross-examination phase of the interview.


The narrative based interview is a four part information recovery system.  After establishing a baseline through an “orientation” effort, the interviewer then creates an environment favorable to allow the person to explain their observations and point of view regarding any incident under inquiry.  The format in and of itself has consistently proven the ability to recover a large amount of raw information from not only a suspect but just as importantly from any victims and / or witnesses.  A larger verbal response creates details and information sufficient for an abundance of follow-up opportunities for the interviewer.


The first level narrative permits the interviewer to “filter” the statement for any holes, contradictions and inconsistencies in the statement.  The interviewer can now focus his questions on these nuggets to an attempt to clarify the information and make an assessment as to whether the isolated information is the result of an apparent attempt to deceive through omission or embellishment.


The final step allows the interviewer to use cross-examination to probe the further filtered contents for the most significant key topics that triggered to largest response from the subject as demonstrated by the subject’s reactions of Anger, Depression, Denial, and Bargaining and ultimately leading the possibly deceptive subject to compliance or admission and confession.


A key tool of Practical Kinesic Interview & Interrogation® is the information recovery aspect of the narrative interview.  The narrative process is however far more valuable than just a tool to obtain an initial statement.  Used as a multi-level filtering tool it will help the interviewer identify the main issues and marshal all his efforts to address those issues in order to achieve his final objective – “The Truth.”

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.