I was investigating an incident of physical and psychological abuse recently and set up an interview with the person suspected of the improper behavior. One of the techniques that lead to the disclosure of the truth was what we refer to as "questioning for expected information." This is when during an investigative interview someone provides an account of their activity and you listen to the person and think to yourself, "if this is true, what would they have experienced and what information should be in their memory about that event?" Then, during the interview, question them for details about what they said. Not in an aggressive, accusatory manner, but in an interest to understand and to fully know what they actually did. For instance, if the person said they went to the gym, what would they have experienced and what information would they have in their memory after going to the gym? Going to the gym is a simple activity, but the list of actions and information that the person should have can be quite long:
- What gym did you go to?
- What time did you get there?
- Where did you park?
- Did you sign or scan in?
- Who was at the front desk?
- What did you do at the gym?
- What did you wear?
- Did you wear gym clothes there?
- Did you change in the locker room?
- Did you bring water?
- Did you see anyone you knew?
- How long did you stay there?
There are many other questions that could be asked, and that applies to even activities such as going to a restaurant or out to a movie. If the person truly did go out to dinner and/or out to a movie, there is a TON of information surrounding that which they should have in their memory. If they are making it up and forming an alibi, the person may have planned ahead and provide some details, but they cannot make up ALL the information that would result from actually experiencing the event. That is the purpose of this questioning strategy, to think about what the person would have actually experienced doing what they said, and then ask questions for detailed information. If they experienced the event, their memory should be filled with information and knowledge surrounding that experience. If they are lying and creating an alibi, they will have to continue to make up information about their story, which often results in the person providing conflicting or incongruent information and they ultimately realize that their story fell apart. That is exactly what happened during my interview. The person admitted that they did not go to the gym, which led to a truthful disclosure about what really happened. A person you are planning to interview may plan to lie ahead of the interview, but it is difficult for most people to lie effectively during this type of questioning, but it is easy for a person to recall the information from memory.
Questioning for expected information will often lead to expected results, which is obtaining the truth!