Interview and Interrogation

These two areas are jumbled together more in real life than on TV. In spite of what people do, here are some basic facts to remember during an interview or interrogation session.

  • You can’t really tell if someone is lying, all you can do is note the topics that the subject shows stress during and investigate those areas further.
  • All subjects have stress during this process so baselining the subjects stress level is important. Stress during the interrogation does not show guilt.
  • YOU leak information when doing the interview so monitoring your outward physical signs is important. While you are trying to read the subject, they are trying to read you. Many new interrogators give away more information with their own body language than the subject does.

Interview and Interrogation


Interviewing Interrogation
Subject talks, you listen You talk to subject about their statements
Subject leads direction of conversation,
you clarify their statements and listen
You lead direction.
Apply NLP skills here.
Each question leads to the next,
no checklist
Flows with direction in mind
(admission of guilt)
Soft in nature Hard in nature
Subjects location,
subject at ease
Interrogation room,
subject is tense
Gathering information Reveal information
Early in investigation Final session


One of the mistakes people new to interview and interrogation is assuming every body change has major meaning. Crossing the arms doesn’t just mean a closed thought, they could be cold, they could have under arm stink, or their stress could be increasing because of your questions. All of these could be represented by just crossing your arms.

Groups of Changes

Watch not just for one sign, watch for groups of signs. They cross their arms, turn their head and place their feet flat on the floor. This is a closed person. Groups of changes is the most important thing to watch for so note the topic that was being discussed when the group occurred.


Want to learn from the best? Watch an episode of Colombo TV detective. When he says “Just one more thing” he shifts from interview to interrogation. He presents facts and refutes earlier statements by the subject. Yes, you can learn something good from TV.

Current Trends

Currently there are two main thoughts and classes on interviewing and interrogating. Both are in current usage throughout the world.

John Reid

Essentials of the Reid Technique Criminal Interrogation and Confessions has been used to teach many military and police professionals around the world. It is a simple book to read with stories, exercises and case studies. It is based on a book called Criminal Interrogation and Confessions written in 1962 by Fred E. Inbau and edited by John E. Reid and Joseph Buckley. This is a practical method that has influenced interviewing and interrogation for many years.

Stan Walters

Principles of Kinesic Interview and Interrogation book is based on the fight or flight mechanism displayed by all humans. Our bodies give signs away as to what our minds are thinking. This method is based on five standard reactions people have to being interviewed:

  1. Anger
  2. Depression
  3. Denial
  4. Bargaining
  5. Acceptance (Acknowledgment)

Four stages of the interview process:

  1. Orientation
  2. Narration
  3. Cross-examination
  4. Close (resolution)

Four different personality types:

  1. Introverted-oriented
  2. Active Extravert
  3. Inactive Extravert
  4. Unique-Active Extravert

‏Each interview or interrogation session is tailored for each personality type. This method places demands on the interviewer to be aware of which stage, what type of personality, and still monitoring all the physical parameters of the subject.

Interview and Interrogation Rooms

Many people don’t pay enough attention to the room that the interrogation is done in. While police stations have rooms set aside for this, in field work, any room is a potential interrogation room. The room should have minimal noise and needs to have a method of controlling entrance into the room.


Reminders of consequences should be minimized by removing any reminder of jail (sign, posters, anything).


Privacy is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting an interrogation area. Subjects should feel they can confide in the investigator.

Chair Arrangement

Arrange chairs across from each other about 4-4.5 feet apart. The chairs should be straight back, no rollers for both parties. The interrogator should not sit between the door and subject. This allows the subject to not feel “trapped” in room.

Observation Room

The observation room should have good lighting so any video recording can be clearly seen. All recording equipment should be checked BEFORE the room is used.

Starting The Interview or Interrogation

When starting an interview or interrogation here are areas to observe in the subject:

  • Posture of Body: upright, slump, away
  • Skin Color: pale, red, white, changes
  • Head Position: upright, tilted, forward/back
  • Eyes: direction, openness
  • Hands/Feet: movement, position, color
  • Mouth/Lips: position, color, turn up/down
  • Primary Sense: visual, aural, kinetic, feeling
  • Voice: pitch, rate, changes
  • Words: short, long, number of syllables, dysfunctions, pauses

Listen to how they talk, not just what they say!

During the interview or interrogation process pay particular attention to the subjects voice and how they answer questions. When you ask a question how long does it take to answer? Answers in less than .5 seconds they usually have been practicing the answer. If the response takes more than 1.5 seconds, they were thinking up an answer.

Another area to listen for changes is in verb and pronoun tense change. These shifts from past tense to future tense shows areas you might want to investigate further. Other areas of change you should listen to is the pitch of the voice (is it going up with stress?), speed of the speaking and the syllable count per word.

Facial Touch Clues

Facial touch is touching the face with the hands. “…in a high stress areas of an interview, watch for an increase in the number of times the subject’s hands move to the head. When these incidents occur, watch for more than 50% of the touching to occur in an area referred to as the “facial touch target.” As with covering the eyes, this is a form of negation that has a significant association with deception”[1]

When people are under stress the sinus membranes dries out causing an increase facial touch rate. This rate can increase by 50% or more. Most subjects don’t even know they are touching their face. The area of increased touch is from below the bridge of nose to bottom lip.

During an episode of increased facial touch, subjects can even start covering their eyes in an effort to hide information leaks. The subject matter being discussed at this time should be noted for further investigation.

Hands and Arms

During the interview or interrogation process subjects who show an increase in activity of the arms and hands are experiencing increased stress. While this is desirable during the interrogation process, the interview process should be kept stress free, allowing the subject to lead the direction of the conversation.


Pay attention to the elbows. When speaking normally without stress, the elbows are kept normally at the side of the body. When stress goes up the body naturally pulls the elbows into the ribs adding additional protection to the internal organs. Watch for this subtle shift in elbow position to help gauge the subjects internal stress.


One of the best hand movements is in illustrating the crime. You’ll note subjects recreate the crime with their hands. Holding their hands as if to strangle or as if they were shooting a rifle. Many subjects don’t even know they are doing this.


Subjects often do grooming behavior when stress is increasing. Pulling or fluffing their hair or playing with their hair are signs of increasing stress. During dating, women often play with their hair, again showing signs of “interest” which is causing the stress response.

Cultural and Educational Differences

Please remember the cultural and education differences in people when evaluating hand and arm gestures. Certain cultures maintain a closed body position with little are movement, other wave their hands and arms obsessively in the air. Both are normal behavior for different cultures.

Gestures and Phrases

A gesture is very strong when paired with word combination. Think of the hand/phrase that goes with “Peace” or “Flipping The Bird”. If the subject combines these, make a note of these because they will emerge separately. The gestures are made when the conversational material relates to that hand symbol. This can be a literal or a conceptual connection so by itself if is only to note, not to point to guilt.

Changes In Thinking

How do you know when the subject has changed their thinking? Simple, just observe for physiological changes. You’ve already watched and base lined the persons vital information.

  • Watch for color changes in lips, skin, or hands.
  • Watch for changes in breathing patterns.
  • Flush “Immediately after you notice intense feeling”.

After this happens you can start pacing or leading the subjects into the areas of interest. This (on a good day) can take only about 5-10 minutes in the session.