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Interrogation Is...


Techniques Interrogation > Interrogation Is...

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Interrogation is an asymmetrical form of dialogue, such that that the goals and methods used by one side are different from those used by the other side.

The interrogator seeks to acquire information from the respondent that is needed for some purpose, such as action to discover 'who did it'. The goal of the respondent is to achieve his or her own interests, significantly including self protection and possibly to achieve wider social goals (particularly if they are a witness or are innocent).

There are three types of interrogation:

  • Interrogation that seeks information that the respondent will freely give, for example of a witness to a crime.
  • Interrogation that seeks information that the respondent does not want to divulge, for example in questioning friends of a suspected criminal.
  • Interrogation that seeks confession, an admission to a particular act, for example in questioning a suspected criminal.

In criminal or military interrogation, the questioner is often an officer of some kind who is trained in many interrogation techniques. The person being questioned may be a suspect or a witness, and techniques used may thus vary quite significantly.


A military interrogator causes complete emotional collapse of a captive suspected of terrorism, who then reveals names, dates and targets.

A police officer questions a witness at the scene of an accident.

A parent questions a child about what happened at the party last night.


Whilst interrogation is not directly about persuasion, it includes many persuasive elements. The main goals of interrogation are usually acquisition of information and the most significant persuasion in this is to get the other person to collaborate.

Because the respondent may well be motivated to not to reveal all or tell other than the truth, the interrogator may need to use various tricks to achieve their goals.

Interrogation often invokes images of harsh methods that seek to terrify the respondent into providing information. In practice, this is likely to result in the person being questioned giving answers simply to get away from the interrogator or otherwise otherwise give false information about what is being sought. In particular, the more professional the subject, the less likely it is that fear-based methods will work.

There is also a danger of incorrect information from such as witnesses trying to be helpful or false memories being created. It is thus important for the interrogator not to take simple answers at face value, but to find ways of corroborating them, for example by asking related questions at a later date or checking up on what they are told.

The process of interrogation is often constrained by law in some way and can lead to invalid responses. For example if police use excessive pressure on a suspect, then in court any confession or evidence may be considered unsafe. If evidence is to stand up in open court, it must be defensible and seen as being obtained by legal means.

See also

Rules of interrogation, Inquisition, Extreme interrogation, Conversion techniques


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