Interviewing vs. Interrogaion


What is the Difference between Interviewing and Interrogation?

            Interviews and interrogations are designed differently in both their approach and purpose. However the goal of both interviews and interrogations set out to do one thing; to find the truth. Additional commonalities of an interview and interrogation in a forensic setting will include the fact that there is pre-incident behavior followed by the incident behavior, and finally the post incident behavior of a client. All three are critical in obtaining information in an interview. According to our text “each of the three stages and how each stage of the criminal behavior can help in determining the culpability of each individual involved (if there is  more than one person involved; and to what degree they were involved” (Gordon & Fleischer 2006). The more information gathered before the interview the better prepared the interviewer will be in obtaining additional information. For example the interviewer in a forensic setting may help determine the following questions “Are you interviewing someone who has no knowledge of the crime? Simply just witnessed the crime, helped plan the crime, committed the crime, helped conceal the crime after it happened, shared in the proceeds of the crime? The interviewer armed with this intellectual advantage is much better prepared to pursue the interview” (Gordon & Fleischer 2006).  On the other hand, an interrogation may ask the very same questions to obtain the same type of information; however “the interrogator has also gained much more factual leverage to obtain a confession” (Gordon & Fleischer 2006). Therefore the goal of the interviewer is to gather information and the goal of the interrogator is to obtain a confession; and the goal of both interview and interrogations is to search for the truth.

            The interviewer and interrogator possess other commonalities such as they both have excellent communication skills in order to deal with all different types of personalities and walks of life; both are professional, good listeners, are not judgmental, are fair, understanding, and in control. They both do not have the same goals. The interviewer gathers information whereas the interrogator attempts to obtain a confession; the interview is non-accusatory whereas an interrogation is more accusatory; The interview is less structured allows the suspect/client to do most of the speaking, actually about 95% of the time whereas the interrogation is more structured and the suspect typical speaks about 5% of the time. An interview can vary in locations such as an office, home or place of work whereas an interrogation is typically done in a law enforcement environment or correctional facility.

            Moreover the personal space given between client and interviewer is typically performed in a personal social range; anywhere from what is considered personal range of 18 inches to 4 feet to a social range of 4-12 feet. Whereas; interrogations will typically begin in the personal range and end up in the intimate range which is approximately 18 inches to where actual physical contact may occur depending on the technique being used by the interrogator. Additionally, an interview may include some writing during the interview whereas there is no writing involved in an interrogation until the suspect confesses; Miranda warning is not always given and is not legally required during an interview; however Miranda warning is required during an interrogation. Furthermore, another commonality is that both interviewer and interrogator will display truthful nonverbal behavior. Finally, interviews will typically have a time limit of about 30 minutes, although that can vary from case to case; and an interrogation typically does not have a time limit. However, it is not ethically to interrogate someone for long periods of time, as it may result in false or coerced confessions as a result of fatigue by the suspect/client.

According to Argosy University “Psychology professionals and mental health professionals do not participate in interrogations, but they do interview others to develop information. They serve as consultants to the police and investigators about improving methods of interrogating suspects or interviewing witnesses” (Argosy 2011).

The Psychology Professional and Interrogation

According to the APA “Years of review has revealed that psychology has played a significant and vital role in promoting ethical interrogations in order to safeguard the welfare of detainees and facilitate communications with them.  By staying engaged, APA is able to work with the many parties, both within and outside of the military, who are dedicated to preventing torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” (APA 2006). 

An example of a forensic psychology professional involved in an interrogation may include consulting a police agency in interrogating a suspect. If the forensic psychologists finds that the investigator/interrogator is denying the suspect the use of bathroom privileges, food, sleep, water, and long hours of interrogation without a break then the forensic psychologist should step in and address this issue.

The forensic psychologist can offer psychological approaches to interrogation that will prevent the interrogator from using force, torture, or even coercion. The forensic psychologist can also help interrogators in understanding the verbal and nonverbal cues of the suspect/client, cultural cues and common cultural behaviors; in addition to the interrogators behavior. The forensic psychologist can assist in delivering an “ethical and effective interrogation by building a rapport with the suspect, respecting the suspect’s dignity and cultural beliefs. The ultimate goal in interrogations is to elicit information and to obtain confessions, and it is the forensic psychologists role in the interrogation process to assist law enforcement, investigators, and military personal in doing so without the use of torture and other forms of inhumane degrading treatment” (APA 2006).

APA Ethics and Resolution on Interrogation

            A psychology professional can participate in an interrogation by way of consulting the interrogator on proper and ethical interrogation techniques. If a psychology professional is aware of the investigator/LEO-law enforcement officer providing cruel and unusual punishment and/or torture then they must report it to the appropriate authorities. This may cause an ethical conflict with the law enforcement agency and the psychology professional. Principle A of the code of ethics for the psychologists is to do no harm or “Beneficence and Nonmaleficence Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons, and the welfare of animal subjects of research” (APA 2010). If a psychology professional looks the other way that would be in violation of the code of ethics in addition to the Council Resolutions: Resolution against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Resolution against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment

According to the resolution against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment “that regardless of their roles, psychologists shall not knowingly engage in, tolerate, direct, support, advise, or offer training in torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment; that psychologists shall not provide knowingly any research, instruments, or knowledge that facilitates the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment; that should torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment evolve during a procedure where a psychologist is present, the psychologist shall attempt to intervene to stop such behavior, and failing that exit the procedure; and finally that psychologists shall be alert to acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment and have an ethical responsibility to report these acts to the appropriate authorities” (APA 2006).


American Psychological Association (2006) Council Resolutions: Resolution Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Retrieved on May 11, 2011 from:


American Psychological Association (2010). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct: 2010 Amendments. Retrieved  on  May 11, 2011 from:

 Gordon, N. & Fleisher, W. (2011). Effective Interviewing and Interrogation Techniques.

New York: Academic Press Elsevier