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Gathering human intelligence via repeated interviewing: further empirical tests of the Scharff technique

Journal article
Authors Simon Oleszkiewicz
Pär-Anders Granhag
Steven Kleinman
Published in Psychology, Crime and Law
Volume 23
Issue 7
Pages 666-681
ISSN 1068-316X
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 666-681
Language en
Keywords Repeated interviews; Scharff technique; human; intelligence gathering; information elicitation; direct approach
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Research on investigative interviewing has only recently started to compare the efficacy of different techniques for gathering intelligence from human sources. So far the research has focused exclusively on sources interviewed once, thus overlooking that most sources are interviewed multiple times. The present study attempts to remedy this gap in the literature. Students (N = 66) took on the role of semi-cooperative sources, holding incomplete information about an upcoming terrorist attack. The sources were informed that they would be interviewed at least once, and that additional interviews might follow. Half of the sources were interviewed on three occasions with the Scharff technique (consisting of five tactics), and the other half was interviewed on three occasions using the so-called direct approach (i.e. openended and specific questions). Collapsing the outcome over the three interviews, the Scharff technique resulted in significantly more new information compared to the direct approach. Furthermore, sources interviewed by the direct approach overestimated how much new information they had revealed, whereas the sources interviewed by the Scharff technique underestimated their contribution (although not significantly so). The current study advances previous research by further contextualizing the tests of the efficacy of human intelligence gathering techniques.

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