The A to Z of Information elicitation

Do you know your phishing from your baselining? This handy A-Z guide gives an overview of the key words in information elicitation.

Active listening, a technique that involves using a paraphrased summary of what the other person has said in order to show a willingness to listen, and give them the opportunity to correct any errors.

Baselining, and evidence showing that prior exposure to a person tends to facilitate our ability to identify truth-telling in a future encounter, but not necessarily our ability to identify deception.

Cognitive, interview, an approach that encourages detailed, open-ended reporting and uses techniques that aid memory recall: by almost 80%. See the CREST website for a guide to the cognitive interview.

Decay, and the finding that information campaigns to counter telephone based social engineering attacks work after one week, but are useless after two weeks.

Educing, a word the US National Science Foundation chose over elicitation in their must-read and still very relevant 2006 report ‘Educing information.’ See our article ‘Improving Practice Through Research: The US and the Study on Enducing Information’ here.

Flattery, and the fact that even blatantly insincere flattery — the kind spotted by its target — has been shown to improve cooperation and liking. You gorgeous reader, you.

Grouping, and the advantage that comes from interacting with two people simultaneously. They typically provide more detail (e.g., as they correct one another) and give away their deception more readily.

Heuristic, and research showing that we use proxies such as ‘what others are doing’ to determine our willingness to comply to requests.

Interpreter, whose demeanour, approach to translation, and even seating position has been shown to impact the amount of information a person reveals.

Judgement, error – and the discovery that making an incorrect inference about a person’s state of mind or motivation will reduce trust and cooperation, but also lead to greater information provision. Use sparingly!

Kindness, an approach that can backfire when used with high context cultures (e.g., Chinese, Russian) who can interpret it as patronising and questioning their capacity.

Language, and evidence showing that adopting the same words as another is enough to make them cooperate and like you more. It also predicts relationship stability.

Motivational frame, and evidence that shows people tend to frame issues through an identity, relational, or instrumental lens. Adopting the same frame is critical to cooperation.

Nonverbal behaviour, and evidence showing that a message accompanied by a nonverbal style that matches the preferred style of the recipient is more likely to be received positively and lead the recipient to desire to act as requested.

Open questions, the cornerstone of getting good information. Sir William Osler’s 1898 dictum to medical students –“Listen to the patient, he is telling you the diagnosis” undoubtedly applies to security settings too.

Phishing, and evidence showing that we’re more likely to click at certain times of day, such as just before lunch.

Quality, as a reminder of the ever-present danger of mistaking quantity of information elicited with its quality. The former is useless if it is low in quality.

Rapport, and evidence showing that alleged terrorists in police interviews respond to interviewers who demonstrate empathy and acceptance, and who allow the interviewee autonomy in their account.

Strategic, use of evidence, and data showing that withholding evidence until after you’ve asked specific questions about it provides a useful tool for detecting deception as liars have to continuously change their story.

Timeline technique, a structured debriefing method from Lorraine Hope that has been shown to increase the amount and detail of information about who did what, when, and with whom – see the CREST website for a guide to the Timeline Technique.

Undergraduates, which is still the group studied in most research on information elicitation. This is unfortunate, as recent research suggests common techniques do not work as well with interviewees of different ages and cultures.

Volunteering information, often known as self-disclosure, which when used carefully can encourage the disclosure of information in others.

Window, which is one thing that work on ‘priming’ shows can encourage disclosure when left open. The work shows that our behaviour is moderated by the context in which we find ourselves, so lots of cues to openness encourages cooperation.

XSens, a technology that enables full-body motion tracking that has been used to allow investigators to watch back their behaviour when eliciting information from others. It has also proven more effective than the polygraph at identifying liars.

Yes, ‘uh-huh,’ ‘ok’, and all the other positive backfeeds that have been shown to encourage people to keep talking (and in so doing provide more information).

Zelig, a statistical measure of the degree to which a person is an interpersonal chameleon; the extent to which they adapt their behaviour to match the person with whom they interact. High Zeligs are more likable and often elicit cooperation as a result.


This article appeared in Issue 1 of CREST Security Review. You can read or download the original article here.

Tags from the story
, , ,