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Measuring Influential Police Interviewing Tactics: A Factor Analytic Approach

NCJ Number
Legal and Criminological Psychology Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Dated: September 1999 Pages: 221-238
John Pearse; Gisli H. Gudjonsson
Mary McMurran, Sally Lloyd-Bostock
Date Published
18 pages
This study examined the types of interview tactics used by police officers to overcome a resistant suspect and elicit a confession to a major crime.
The study hypothesized that interview tactics designed to maximize or exaggerate the strength of the evidence against the suspect, or to minimize the suspect's responsibility or role in the offense will be present in serious cases in which initial resistance was overcome. The interview data from 18 serious criminal cases were subjected to a detailed analysis by using a specially constructed coding frame that identified the nature and number of tactics present in every 5-minute segment of each interview. A total of 39 interviewing tactics were identified, of which 33 were factor analyzed. Six factors emerged and were rotated by using the varimax procedure. The first three factors were "overbearing" in character. They were labeled "intimidation," "robust challenge," and "manipulation." The remaining three factors were identified as question style, appeal, and soft challenge. This Police Interviewing Analysis Framework provides the first systematic attempt to identify, analyze, measure, and display the dynamics of the police-suspect interview. In order to overcome resistance, the police resorted to manipulative and coercive tactics. The nature of the tactics used and their frequency were found to be related to the likelihood that the courts would rule the evidence inadmissible. 3 tables, 1 figure, 22 references, and appended coding frame for interview tactics