Interview and Interrogation Methods

Interview and Interrogation Methods and Their Effects on True and False Confessions

The Campbell Collaborative; National Police Improvement Agency (United Kingdom)

Co-Investigators: Christian Meissner (PI), Susan Brandon and Sujeeta Bhatt

We conducted a systematic review of the published and unpublished literatures on the interview and interrogation of suspects. Our focus was to examine the impact of accusatorial versus information-gathering approaches on the elicitation of confessions. Two reviews were conducted; one that focused on experimental, laboratory-based study in which the ground truth was known (i.e., known whether the confession is true or false), and one that focused on quasi-experimental, field studies of actual suspects in which the ground truth was unknown. To be eligible, experimental studies must include 1) at least two distinct interviewing or interrogation styles (e.g., control method and accusatorial) and 2) sufficient data on true and/or false confession outcomes. Field studies must include 1) at least one coded and quantified interviewing/interrogation method; and 2) data on confession outcomes tied to the questioning style. After an exhaustive search, 12 eligible experimental and 5 field studies were located. Results revealed that the information-gathering approach was more diagnostic in that it increased the number of true but not false confessions. Overall, the number of independent samples was small and thus we consider our findings preliminary.