Investigative interviews as self-fulfilling prophecies? A discourse analysis of interviewer influence over accounts produced by interviewees.

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Deliberate, oppressive interviewer coercion of suspect interviewees is thankfully a thing of the past in the UK. Yet aspects of interviewers’ discursive behaviour can nevertheless have a direct influence over the accounts obtained from interviewees, directly shaping their version of events. This paper will demonstrate how investigative interviews with suspects can therefore result in interviewee accounts which simply confirm whatever version of events the interviewers are currently working on, with potentially serious consequences for the course of the investigation.

The mechanisms through which this influence operate are subtle, yet pervasive and commonplace in all forms of spoken interaction. They also go beyond more quantifiable features such as question types, instead involving much smaller-scale communicative features, making them difficult to detect on the ‘surface’. But detailed, qualitative linguistic analysis allows us to go beneath the surface and examine this process in ‘slow-motion’, revealing how the interviewee’s account is influenced by the interviewer on a turn-by-turn basis through the course of an interview.

By increasing awareness of this process, it is hoped that interviewers will be better equipped to recognise it, and to minimise its occurrence. Further, this illustrates the type of practical assistance which forensic linguistics can offer to investigative interviewers.
Period23 Jun 2010
Event title3rd Annual Conference of the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group
Event typeConference
SponsorIndic Systems
LocationStavern, NorwayShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational