Detainees Subject to Coercive Interrogation Are 14 Times LESS Likely to Share Information Than Those Subjected to Peaceful, Tried and True Techniques

H20The Water Torture
Facsimile of a woodcut in J. Damhoudère’s
Praxis Rerum Criminalium,
Antwerp, 1556

Last November, the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology published the results of a study on coercive interrogation versus interrogation in which the interrogator built rapport with the detainee.

The authors – professors at the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security and School of Psychology at Charles Stuart University, and the Department of Psychology, Middlesex University, London – found that detainees subjected to coercive interrogations are 14 times less likely to share important information than those subjected to tried and true rapport-building methods.

As the British Psychological Association – the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK – notes:

Past research (pdf) suggests that using torture as a way to extract information or confessions from terror suspects isn’t just unethical, it’s also ineffective. The advantage of rapport-building interrogation strategies (including respect, friendliness and empathy towards suspects) over more coercive techniques is highlighted once again in a new study that involved interviews with law enforcement interrogators and detainees.

The research involved 34 interrogators (1 woman) from several international jurisdictions including Australia, Indonesia and Norway. And there were 30 international detainees (1 woman), most of whom had been held on suspicion of terrorism, including people suspected of involvement with the Tamil Tigers or the Islamist group Ansar al Ismal based in Norway. One in five of the detainees reported being subjected to practices that constitute torture.


The results were striking – disclosure was 14 times more likely to occur early in an interrogation when a rapport-building approach was used. Confessions were four times more likely when interrogators struck a neutral and respectful stance.


The researchers said their results “augment the accumulating cross-national consensus about effective noncoercive best practices in investigative interviewing.”

Hard to believe? Think that getting tough is the best way to break hardened terrorists or criminals?

You’re wrong …  The FBI, Pentagon, Homeland SecurityCIA and all of the top interrogation experts agree that non-coercive methods work best.

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