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Interview and interrogation methods

The interviewing and interrogation of suspects can be particularly important to securing convictions against the guilty and freeing the wrongly accused. A Campbell systematic review examines the effectiveness of interviewing and interrogation methods. Findings from the systematic review indicate the effectiveness of an information-gathering style of interviewing suspects.

The focus of the review was to examine the impact of accusatorial versus information-gathering approaches on the elicitation of confessions. Results revealed that while both information-gathering and accusatory methods were similarly associated with the production of confessions in field studies, experimental data indicated that the information-gathering method increased the likelihood of true confessions, while reducing the likelihood of false confessions.

Given the small number of independent samples, the current findings are considered preliminary, yet suggestive of the benefits of information-gathering methods in the interrogative context.

Two meta-analytic reviews were conducted: one that focused on observational and quasi-experimental field studies of actual suspects in which ground truth (i.e., veracity of the confession statement) was unknown, and another that assessed experimental, laboratory-based studies in which ground truth was known.
The five eligible field studies included 1) at least one coded and quantified interviewing/interrogation method and 2) data on confession outcomes tied to the questioning style.
The 12 experimental studies included 1) at least two distinct interviewing or interrogation styles (e.g., direct questioning and accusatorial approach) and 2) sufficient data on true and/or false confession outcomes.

The user abstract is available here.

The review team was led by Christian Meissner, Professor, Psychology department, University of Texas at El Peso and Program Director, Law and Social Sciences, National Science Foundation