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Inducing disclosure through Priming: Exploring Subtle Persuasion Tactics in HUMINT Interviewing

Conference contribution
Authors David Amon Neequaye
Karl Ask
Pär-Anders Granhag
Published in The 12th meeting of The Nordic network for research on psychology and law. Uppsala, Sweden: 23-24 September 2016
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords HUMINT, Priming, construct accessibility
Subject categories Psychology


Extant research has shown that HUMINT interviewing benefits from strategic interviewing techniques that bolster an interviewer’s attempt to elicit information from an interviewee. In the present work, I explore a relatively new strategy of educing information—nuanced prompting (i.e., priming) of an interviewee’s willingness to share information. The merit of such a subtle persuasion tactic is that, it may activate an interviewee’s internal motivations to disclose information thereby retaining the interviewee’s autonomy over whatever information they chooose disclose. First, I examine burgeoning empirical research that has investigated the subtle impact of incidental activation of relevant concepts on interviewee information disclosure. Further, I present a critique of the previously mentioned studies within the wider context of social priming literature. The crux of my critique is that current applications of priming in investigative interviewing research lacks process based analyses. Such analyses are needed to elucidate the intricacies underlying how subtle activation of concepts impact information disclosure. I then discuss two recent basic priming studies that address concerns raised by my critique. The studies are based on a synthesis of contemporary theoretical perspectives of priming; essentially, the studies highlight the joint importance of construct accessibility and fecund situations that accommodate assimilation in priming effects. Drawing on these studies, I offer practical applications for researchers and practitioners considering priming as a tool to activate concepts that facilitate disclosure in HUMINT interviews.

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