The Burden of Unfulfilled Expectations: Challenges of Interviewing Witnesses who Fail to Cooperate

Alejandra de la Fuente Vilar, Robert Horselenberg, Lorraine Hope, Leif A. Strömwall, Sara Landström, Peter van Koppen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


Individuals who witness a crime are expected to cooperate and disclose information if interviewed by the authorities. However, police report frequently encountering witnesses who are unwilling to become involved in the investigative process. Despite the challenge lack of witness cooperation represents for investigators, it has received little scientific attention.
We examined the extent to which investigator’s expectations of witness cooperation affect interviewing strategies and questions used in an investigative interview. Participants (N = 110) interviewed either a perceived cooperative, uncooperative or a neutral witness. Participants as investigators interviewed a confederate who acted as an uncooperative witness.

Data is currently being analysed and will be presented at the conference. We predict that interviewer’s a priori beliefs of witness cooperation will activate a process of confirmation bias, by which investigators will use more closed, leading, and probing questions (vs. open free and cued recall) when expecting low levels of cooperation (vs. higher levels of cooperation) from the witness. Similarly, investigators will use more accusatorial over information-gathering interviewing strategies as expectations of the level of witness cooperation decreases.

Understanding how interviewer’s expectations of witness cooperation affect information gathering during investigative interviews is relevant to inform interviewing practice that promotes cooperation and facilitates disclosure.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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