Eliciting information from people who pose a threat: counter-interview strategies examined

Renate Geurts, Karl Ask, Pär Anders Granhag, Aldert Vrij

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Threat managers—who aim to identify potential danger—typically collect information from sources around persons who pose a threat rather than questioning the threateners themselves. To elicit valuable information from threateners, it is important to understand the strategies they use to withstand interviews (i.e., counter-interview strategies). In the experiment, participants (N = 179) communicated a threat that they intended to actualize (actualizers) or not (bluffers), and were subsequently questioned about the threat using an interview protocol intended to communicate high or low suspicion. The findings showed that threatening required self-regulation. Participants were forthcoming, yet strategic and adaptive to the targets’ response. Actualizers provided fewer details on how to implement the threat than did bluffers, and, when subjected to follow-up questions bluffers increased the information provision more than did actualizers. Knowledge on counter-interview strategies of threateners may contribute to the development of interview protocols that can be used to assess risk for violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-166
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
Early online date29 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • threat assessment
  • informtation elicitation
  • counter-interview strategy
  • investigative interviewing
  • true intent


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