Panel 5: Eliciting information: Online, offline, and quickly

Chair: Oli Buckley

LT 5&6, Wednesday 20th, 0900-1100

Lorraine Hope

Professor | University of Portsmouth

Getting information quickly: Development of the Time-Critical Questioning framework

Session: Panel 5: Eliciting information: Online, offline, and quickly (LT5)

In many operational contexts, obtaining accurate and targeted information in a time-critical manner is vital to (i) assess and neutralise immediate threats, (ii) inform critical decision-making and operational response, or (iii) expedite transmission of intelligence information under hostile conditions. Direct questioning approaches involving a sequence of direct and closed questions do not align with evidence-based questioning practices, and are likely to result in significant omissions. Research to date has entirely neglected this sharp-end questioning context. The current project developed a Time-Critical Questioning (TCQ) framework that i) quickly establishes rapport, and aligns the roles and goals between interviewer-interviewee; ii) draws on effective questioning practices; and iii) promotes reporting of target information. Following a laboratory-based proof of concept study (N = 111), we used a novel immersive methodology to assess the TCQ framework. In a pre-registered experiment, participants (N = 142) completed an Escape Room activity in small teams. Participants were then interviewed individually for 10 minutes using the TCQ framework, a Funnel Questioning approach, or the Direct approach. Participants interviewed using the Time-Critical Questioning framework reported significantly more correct information of tactical value (i.e., how to escape) relative to participants interviewed with the Direct approach.

Co-authors: Feni Kontogianni, University of Winchester; Alejandra De La Fuente Vilar and Wayne Thomas, University of Portsmouth


Marika Madfors

Researcher | Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Strategic evidence disclosure for interviewing suspects: Training U.S. investigators in research-informed tactics

Session: Panel 5: Eliciting information: Online, offline, and quickly (LT5)

This project translated experimental literature on evidence disclosure techniques into a training program that provides an operational purpose with suspect interview. The training focused on how to substantiate the reliability of available evidence and enhance the integrity of the investigation. U.S. investigators were given a 2-day training in the research-informed evidence disclosure tactics. To validate the training, investigators (n=56) interviewed guilty mock-suspects (n=112) before and after the training in a within-subject design. Trained investigators withheld the evidence more frequently, used more evidence slicing tactics, and reduced their use of unproductive questions and deceptive uses of evidence. The investigators thus adhered to the training, which resulted in more statement-evidence inconsistencies (p-.04) and less contaminated admissions (p=.01) and statement-evidence inconsistencies (p=.01). Moreover, investigators felt more open-minded and less confession-focused after the training, which was agreed upon by the suspects. The findings show that the training made investigators (a) more inclined to explore plausible explanations to the available evidence, and (b) less inclined to contaminate the subject’s admissions and statement-evidence inconsistencies, thereby improving the outcome of the interview. This study shows that considering real-life challenges of investigators and offering evidence-based alternatives to problematic tactics is important for reducing problematic interviewing behaviours.

Co-authors: Simon Oleszkiewicz, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Matt Jones, Det (ret), Evocavi LLC


Lorraine Hope

Professor | University of Portsmouth

Eliciting information in online interactions: Development of a rapport-based protocol for security contexts   

Session: Panel 5: Eliciting information: Online, offline, and quickly (LT5)

Online interactions with the goal of eliciting intelligence or investigative information are, increasingly, a core activity in security contexts. To date, however, research has not assessed the extent to which information elicitation strategies designed for face-to-face interactions are effective in online contexts. The current research tested a rapport-based information elicitation approach for use with human intelligence (HUMINT) sources online. Following the development of a novel online methodology and extensive associated piloting, two versions of a rapport-based interviewing protocol were tested for respective use in situations where some key information is known to the interviewer or not. These protocols incorporated evidence-based interviewing practices for eliciting information in face-to-face interviews, including rapport-building, transfer of control, open prompts, confirmatory claims, and elements of motivational interviewing. In a pre-registered experiment, participants (N = 202) engaged as HUMINT mock-sources in an immersive online scenario that placed them in an information management dilemma in a subsequent online chat interview (i.e., text-based communication only). Rapport-based interviewing approaches produced significantly more units of information and were perceived more positively by participants (cf. participants interviewed using a direct approach). These results are promising and relevant for practitioners tasked with eliciting critical intelligence in online contexts from potentially reluctant sources.

Co-authors: Alejandra De La Fuente Vilar, University of Portsmouth; Feni Kontogianni, University of Winchester; Simon Oleszkiewicz, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam


Alejandra De La Fuente Vilar

Senior Research Associate | University of Portsmouth

Online Counter-Interrogation Tactics by Reluctant Mock-Sources

Session: Panel 5: Eliciting information: Online, offline, and quickly (LT5)

The analysis of human intelligence (HUMINT) interviews has allowed for the conceptualisation and categorisation of counter-interrogation tactics (CITs) used by reluctant interviewees. Interviewees’ verbal and non-verbal responses across an interview often oscillate along a cooperativeness-uncooperativeness continuum, and the use of CITs reflect the interviewee’s unwillingness to report information. To date, CITs have been examined only in face-to-face interactions; as such little is known about the form they take in online interactions. In a pre-registered experiment investigating a rapport-based interviewing approach, we examined the CITs used by HUMINT mock-sources (N = 202) in an online chat interview (i.e., text-based communication only). Findings indicate that interviewees strategically disclosed and withheld information, and that their pattern of reluctant reporting was characterised by the use of CITs similar to those present in real face-to-face HUMINT interviews. Moreover, this corpus of interviews provided the opportunity to identify specific verbal CITs present in the online context. To undermine information elicitation, interviewees commonly chose to provide: incomplete information; some incriminatory information about a different target than the one in question; and justifications for their claims that they lack relevant knowledge. These findings are particularly relevant for security practitioners eliciting intelligence and critical information in online contexts.

Co-authors: Lorraine Hope, University of Portsmouth; Feni Kontogianni, University of Winchester; Simon Oleszkiewicz, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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