When we conduct an interrogation with someone, there has to be some reason that we believe the individual is not being completely honest, trying to mislead us, holding back some information or maybe outright lying to us. If that was not the case we would simply be conducting an interview with them. The main difference between interviewing and interrogation is that during an interview we are trying to gather information from a cooperative individual, wherein our main concerns relate to communication and memory issues. During an interrogation we are dealing with a resistant individual and our main concerns relate to the motivational issues of the person we are communicating with.
The motivational issues means that the person appears to have more relevant information to provide you regarding the incident under investigation or their involvement with it, but they are not willing to tell you everything at this time, or they are not comfortable doing so for some reason. For each case and each person, that motivational roadblock will be different. To get you thinking, here are some roadblocks people may have. Some may be concerned about getting caught and all of the fallout from that like getting arrested, going to jail, fines, etc. Some may be concerned about losing their job, getting fired, not being able to support their family, losing their home, etc. Others may be fearful of retaliation from other people involved, embarrassment with family, letting other family members or friends down, guilt or shame about their actions, etc. In some cases they may simply not trust you.
During the interrogation we want to reduce their resistance to confess while at the same time increase their desire to tell the truth. Now, reducing their resistance to confess does not mean excessively-long interrogations trying to wear them down, tricking them, putting them in uncomfortable positions, denying them food, water or sleep, or making them listen to Michael Bolton songs for 12 hours straight! That is coercive and unproductive.
We can reduce their resistance to confess ethically and effectively by developing rapport and trust with the individual and addressing their concerns upfront with them. Sometimes that open and honest discussion with them is enough to break through their resistance barrier. If they are still holding back or are not comfortable, we can use persuasive triggers such as reciprocity, conformity, scarcity or contrast. You can build up their character by highlighting the good in them. You can try to empathize and rationalize why this could have happened, or why the individual may have made the decisions he/she did based on the circumstances at the time. You can point out that things could certainly have been worse, or that other people have done much worse things, or help to displace some blame, etc.
The goal is to try and reduce the shame that they may be feeling while at the same time increasing the guilt. Shame is the internal pain that often comes with doing something wrong, while guilt is a feeling a responsibility for their actions.
To do this, we don’t have to get the individual’s will to confess to 100%, we simply need to move the needle past the 50% mark. Once the person has more of a desire to tell the truth than to hold back, we will be on our way to effectively and ethically persuading them to be truthful. We just have to get them over the hump to tip the scales toward truth!