Interview-Interrogation Mindset Change


One of the major aspects of training police officers when it comes to conducting interviews and interrogations is addressing and altering their mindset prior to conducting an interview or interrogation. Within the police culture, and particularity within the United States, the mindset of an officer heading into an interrogation with a suspect is often that of getting a confession from the individual. At first glance, people may think..."Well, yeah. Isn't that their job? And also, doesn't Jack Bauer on the television show "24" do that all the time?" Yes he does, but that does not work in real life. Innocent people have falsely confessed to crimes they didn't commit for one reason or another. The main goal of an interview or interrogation, or simply investigative interviewing, is to gather information about the incident under investigation. Whether an investigator talks with a victim, witness, informant or suspect, the goal is to gather as much information from that individual as they have. The second goal is to assess the information for veracity, or truthfulness. Looking at the definition of "mindset" above, if the goal of an investigator is to get a confession, the underlying assumption is one of guilt. The investigators actions and questions will be influenced by that belief and directed towards that goal, and their understanding and feedback of the individual during the interrogation will be filtered through that mindset as well. However, if the mindset shifts to that of believing the person and gathering as much information from them as possible, while still understanding that people can and do lie, the questions the investigator will ask will be directed towards that goal of gathering information, and the information and feedback from the individual will reflect that as well. This concept and the investigative mindset is expanded upon within BELIEF Interviewing training. Click the link to BELIEF Interviewing to learn a little more about this concept. It is true in life as it is within the context of investigative interviewing, that your beliefs will effect your actions, which will effect your results!

The Brain Map of Words

Interesting research has shown how various words are processed in different parts of the brain. With tens of thousands of words known by the average person, each are grouped and processed differently by the person’s brain. Consider the impact of this within the context of investigative interviewing and criminal interrogation. When you probe a person’s account of an event, they are drawing the words from various parts of their brain to accurately relate information to you about the event under investigation. If they are truthful, they are relying on their memory of the event and chose the words accordingly. If they decide to lie to you because they are guilty of the crime under investigation, they still have the memory of the event and know the truthful narrative of what happened, but they have to choose different words and create a different, fabricated story, or skip over information all together. This is why it’s important to pay attention to the words people use. Often, when someone is not telling the truth, information is leaked into their narrative that they don’t want you to know, if you know what to look for. This video and the supporting research clearly shows the complexity of the human brain when it comes to language and its importance within investigative interviews and criminal interrogations. 


Confronting your Best Friend



If your best friend is not himself or herself, you know it. They behave differently. They may be more quiet than usual, or they may be more hyper than usual. They may not hold a conversation very well, and they may seem somewhat distracted. They are just off...not themselves. You know this because you know them and understand them and how they normally behave. This normal behavior is their baseline, and you picked up that something is wrong. If you asked him, "Hey Joe, so seem a little off today, a little down. Is everything alright?" If Joe says, after a long pause and a stress-relieving sigh, "Yeah, everything's fine." You know Joe is not fine, and Joe actually lied to you about how he is truly feeling. So, what do you do? How would you respond to Joe? Do you confront him and yell, "Listen Joe, I know you are not fine so stop jerking me around and tell me the truth!" If Joe then starts talking and telling you again that everything's fine, do you stop him from talking and put your hand up and say, "I don't want to hear that Joe, I KNOW you are not fine, so don't feed me any of your bull!" Of course not. We wouldn't do that because how would Joe respond? He would likely stop talking or walk away and not want to be around you anymore. Your response would more likely be that you take Joe aside into a quiet place and let him know you can see something is wrong and you would like to talk with him about it. If he started saying he was fine, you would listen and ask questions. You would be compassionate, listen well, connect with him and let him know you care about him. With that approach, Joe would be more likely to talk with you and tell you the truth about what's bothering him. You wouldn't yell at him, stop him from talking, accuse him of lying, etc. So, why do so many police officers still interview in a confrontational manner? Rapport-based narrative interviewing is much more effective at obtaining truthful information from people, and many countries and police forces have prohibited aggressive, accusatory tactics within investigative interviews and criminal interrogations. The good news is that my travels and training throughout the country, I see the tide shifting to the more effective narrative-based interview which is a welcome change!

Look Beneath the Surface


I came across a Scripture this morning which said; "Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly", which is from John 7:24 (NLT). This got me thinking...this is exactly what we do with investigative statement analysis!

We see or hear the surface structure of what the person says...this is the words, sentences and phrases the person uses to communicate. However, when we "look beneath the surface" we see there is a lot more going on!

There is a deeper structure and meaning to language which is often unseen. This is what caused the person to use the words they chose. As an example, this is a statement from a guy involved in the kidnapping and murder of a 13 year old girl who was found in a lake wrapped in a blanket and chains. He stated during his confession, "Once the bubbles stopped, I dragged her body onto the beach and proceeded to get the blanket and chains from the back of the truck." If someone looks at the "surface" of his language is may seem like he drowned her, put her on the beach, and got the blanket and chains from the truck just like he said. But there is more under the surface which was picked up by an astute detective.

He said he "...proceeded to get the blanket and chains from the truck." Why would he "proceed to do something rather than just do it? Because what he was planning to do was "interrupted" by something he didn't tell us. In this case, when the detective identified this hot spot, he confronted him with a simple question..."Tell us what happened after you brought her onto the beach?" which led to the disclosure that he had sex with her dead body after he killed her! That was great information to have for our case which would have been missed if the detective didn't look beneath the surface of the language.

Investigative Statement Analysis is a powerful tool for anyone conducting investigative interviews or criminal interrogations, or for who needs to know the truth and look beneath the surface of the words!

BELIEF Interviewing Model


The BELIEF Interviewing Model is an investigative interviewing program designed to help investigators gather and assess information from victims, witnesses, informants and suspects. Based upon more than 20 years of law enforcement investigative experience and shaped by current academic research, this method is non-confrontational and very effective sitting face-to-face during interviews or interrogations, whether it is within the context of police investigations, insurance fraud, loss prevention, or human resource investigations. It is also ideal for conducting interviews over the telephone or computer conferencing software where there are no behavioral indicators to focus on, just the person's words. Since truths and lies are told through the words people use, it makes perfect sense to have the narrative be the central focus of an interview program! Words not only carry truths and lies, but they also provide information, which is the goal of any gather information.

The system is based upon the acronym BELIEF, which stands for:

B: Build Rapport & Baseline
E: Extract Initial Account & Information
L: Listen/Look Attentively
I: Identify Key Elements & Changes
E: Expand Information
F: Follow-Up (ie: corroborate)

The acronym BELIEF reminds us to start every interview with the belief in the person and what they have to say. The benefits of believing the person up front are:

1. It is in alignment with our core values that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
2. It helps eliminate personal bias and gives people the benefit of the doubt.
3. It helps prevent contamination of the interview by eliminating signals of doubt or disbelief coming from the interviewer regarding what the person is telling them.
4. It maximizes verbal content from the individual.
5. Rather than look for deceptive cues, the interviewer focuses more on gathering, developing and testing the information obtained during the interview for veracity.
6. The questioning process is based upon the information provided by the individual being interviewed rather than a scripted interview process, particular steps to follow or a question & answer format.
7. Interviewers assess the content of the individual's account, rather than their own intuitive judgments or beliefs about the person's behavior and/or appearance, which are often false or misleading.
8. It makes it difficult for the interviewee to plan for questions in advance of the interview, since the questions are based upon what the individual says.
9. The unexpected and unpredictable questioning strategy helps break any "mental scripts" the individual has entering the interview process.
10. Allows for the implementation of tactical and strategic use of evidence during the interview, as well as employing cognitive interviewing and investigative statement analysis techniques.

Although we approach each person with BELIEF that they will be truthful, people will always have the choice to tell the truth or lie, so we must never forget that there may be a lie in there somewhere! "BELIEF"

Holding these two beliefs simultaneously may be difficult, but this balancing act will help you be more objective, encourage you to probe and test their account and the information they provide, and will promote the development of greater information through the questioning and testing process.

Maintaining this approach helps the investigator reduce or neutralize what psychologists call confirmation bias, which is the tendency of an individual to search for, interpret, or even recall information from memory in a way that confirms that individual's personal beliefs or assumptions. In essence, our brains try to confirm what they already believe and you end up finding what you are looking for, but you may miss the truth in the process.

While many interview and interrogation programs focus on looking for indicators of deception with the purpose of obtaining a confession, the BELIEF Interviewing program focuses on the narrative and the words the person uses with the purpose of obtaining information. That information is probed and assessed in a way that helps lead the interviewer to the truth!


Our primary purpose is to enhance the investigator's ability to develop rapport, facilitate communication, extract more accurate information, detect deception and obtain the TRUTH from every investigative inquiry.


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