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University of Gothenburg

Preventing future crimes

This theme consists of two related areas: (a) true and false intent and (b) how to interview to elicit intelligence. Both topics relates to future crimes and both topics are emerging areas within legal psychology. There is much research about liars’ and truth-tellers’ statements about their past actions, but very little research about true and false intent. This is noteworthy considering how many cases (including famous ones like the 9/11-attack) that revolve around on the issue of true and false intent. Considering how frequent and important human intelligence gathering (HUMINT) is, it is remarkable that there is very little psycho-legal research that can be used to inform interviewers on how to effectively elicit intelligence from human sources. Our research on this theme is still at an early stage, but we foresee that the output of our research might be highly relevant for both investigative and intelligence settings.

Areas of research

1. Detecting true and false intentions

For this line of research we conduct both theoretical and more applied research. We aim to find cues that are diagnostic to false intentions, but also to learn about the characteristics of truthful intentions. The overall aim is to develop scientifically based techniques that could be of assistance when having to discriminate between true and false intentions.

2. Intelligence gathering

The main purpose of intelligence elicitation is to collect information in a manner that does not alert the source to the true purpose of the interaction. That is, to collect information without the source realizing that he is providing information needed to meet particular intelligence requirements. In this line of research we examine the effectiveness of different techniques aimed for information elicitation (e.g., the Scharff-technique).

  • Clemens, F., Granhag, P.A., & Strömwall, L.A. (2011). Eliciting cues to false intent: A new application of strategic interviewing. Law and Human Behavior, 35, 512-522.
  • Vrij, A., Granhag, P.A., Mann, S. & Leal, S. (2011). Lying about flying: The first experiment to detect false intent. Psychology, Crime & Law, 17, 611-620.
  • Granhag, P.A. & Knieps, M. (2011). Episodic future thought: Illuminating the trademarks of forming true and false intentions. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 274-280.
  • Vrij, A., Leal, S., Mann, S. & Granhag, P.A. (2011). A comparison between lying about intentions and past activities. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 212-218.
  • Granhag, P.A. (2010). On the psycho-legal study of true and false intentions: Dangerous waters and some stepping stones. Open Criminology Journal, 3, 37-43.