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Interviewing to manage threats: Exploring the effects of interview style on information gain and threateners’ counter-interview strategies

Journal article
Authors Renate Geurts
Karl Ask
Pär-Anders Granhag
Aldert Vrij
Published in Journal of Threat Assessment and Management
Volume 5
Issue 4
Pages 189-204
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 189-204
Language en
Subject categories Applied Psychology, Psychology, Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)


There is consensus about the importance to engage with, and if possible interview, individuals who threaten to cause harm. However, there exist little research on how to conduct such interviews. This paper contributes with an experimental approach on threat management interviewing. We explored what types of counter-interview strategies threateners employ, and we tested the efficacy of two common interview styles (direct interviewing vs. rapport-based interviewing). Participants (N = 120) were interviewed about a non-violent threat they had made (to press charges against their former employer) and reported what strategies they had used during the interview. No differences were found between the interview protocols for threat management outcomes (i.e., information gain, use of counter-interview strategies, and willingness to discuss or enact the threat). However, the study showed how threateners struck a deliberate balance between proving their stand and disguising implementation details. Critically, individuals with more serious intentions to enact the threat were more inclined to hide information from the interviewer. We argue that it is vital for threat management interviewers to i) understand what behaviors can be expected from the interviewee, and ii) learn about interview methods that can steer these behaviors towards information gain (which is beneficial to threat assessment) and towards de-escalation (which is the purpose of threat management).

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