Rapport-building: Culture and online vs. in-person interviews

Recent research on investigative interviewing revealed one overarching factor that is crucial for the quality of the interview: rapport.

Through rapport-building, investigators are able to develop a working relationship with the interviewee, creating a positive atmosphere that fosters communication, encourages cooperation, and supports the task of obtaining information.

The tactics recommended for rapport-building consist of verbal (e.g. finding common ground) and non-verbal behaviours (e.g. affirmations, displaying empathy). Rapport-building tactics may, however, be mediated by cultural background. For example, whereas holding direct eye-contact may be socially appropriate in Western countries, direct eye contact with an authority is considered inappropriate or even threatening in other cultures.

Using Hall’s (1976) theory on low- and high-context communication cultures, this project will examine the effect of culture on rapport-building in investigative interviewing scenarios. Specifically, we will examine how rapport is built and perceived in interactions between people of high- or low- context culture backgrounds, across chatroom and in-person interactions. It is possible that these cross-cultural differences are less pronounced in chatroom interactions as opposed to in-person interactions, where the non-verbal rapport behaviours are not present.

The results of this experiment will not only advance our understanding of rapport, it may also supply highly relevant and directly applicable knowledge to practitioners.

Principal Investigator

Ewout Meijer


Maastricht University


Katherine Hoogesteyn