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Eliciting intelligence with the Scharff technique: Interviewing more and less cooperative and capable sources

Journal article
Authors Pär-Anders Granhag
Simon Oleszkiewicz
Leif Strömwall
Steven Kleinman
Published in Psychology, public policy and law
Volume 21
Issue 1
Pages 100-110
ISSN 1076-8971
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 100-110
Language en
Keywords Scharff technique, direct approach, human-intelligence gathering information elicitation
Subject categories Psychology


The objective was to compare the efficacy of the Scharff technique (conceptualized as 5 tactics) with the direct approach (open and direct questions) as a means of eliciting intelligence from human sources. The interview techniques were used with 4 different types of sources varying in their levels of both cooperation and capability to provide information as follows: (a) less willing/less able, (b) less willing/more able, (c) more willing/less able, and (d) more willing/more able. The sources (N = 200) were given information about a notional planned terrorist attack and instructed to strike a balance between not revealing too much or too little information in a subsequent interview. Overall, the Scharff technique resulted in significantly more new information than the direct approach, particularly for the less cooperative sources. Furthermore, sources interviewed with the Scharff technique had a more difficult time reading the interviewer’s information objectives and consistently underestimated how much new information they revealed. The study substantiates the Scharff technique as an effective humanintelligence gathering tool.

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