What is the Evidence on the Information-Gathering Interrogation Approach?
Information-gathering interrogation approaches are listed under “What’s promising?” on our Review of the Research Evidence.
Meissner, Redlich, Bhatt, and Brandon (2012) assessed police interview and interrogation techniques to determine which method of interrogation is more successful in maximizing valid confessions from suspects and minimizing false confessions. They compared the accusatorial method common in the United States to the less confrontational information-gathering method common in the United Kingdom.
Field studies (i.e. studies that examined actual interrogations) suggested that both methods increased the likelihood of confessions compared to general questioning methods. Laboratory experiments (typically using college students as subjects), however, revealed that information-gathering methods reduced false confessions and in certain instances increased the likelihood of true confessions, while accusatorial methods made false confessions more likely.
Meissner and colleagues (2012: 33-34) conclude that “while accusatorial methods significantly increased the likelihood of obtaining a true confession (when compared with a no-tactic control condition), these methods also significantly increased the likelihood of obtaining a false confession – a rather medium-to-large effect that is consistent with many cases of wrongful conviction in the United States.” In regards to information-gathering techniques, they note ” information-gathering approaches significantly increased true confession rates, but showed no significant increase in the rate of false confessions when compared with a no-tactic control condition. In fact, information-gathering approaches appeared to show a numerical decrease in the rate of false confessions obtained.”
The main policy implication of the Meissner et al. (2012) review is that the police (and other law enforcement agencies) should consider information-gathering approaches to interrogation as a means to maximize true confessions and minimize false confessions and thus enhance the fairness of policing.