Lack of witness cooperation in the interview room

Alejandra De La Fuente Vilar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


To elicit accurate and detailed witness accounts, the police rely on witness cooperation, which is not always granted. A cost-benefit analysis framework will be introduced to explain lack of witness cooperation in police interviews. Furthermore, three empirical studies will be presented demonstrating the challenges of interviewing uncooperative witnesses. In Study 1, participants (N = 136) acting as mock-witnesses were instructed to be cooperative or uncooperative (cf. control). Participants in the uncooperative condition reported significantly less information than those in the cooperative and control conditions. In Study 2, participants (N = 110) acting as mock-interviewers were asked to plan and conduct an interview of a confederate in the study acting unbeknownst to them as an uncooperative witness. Participants’ proportion of information-gathering questions significantly reduced from the plan to the interview stage. Participants predominantly asked direct and closed questions. In Study 3, criminal investigators (N = 274) from the Netherlands, Sweden, and England and Wales self-reported in a survey deficient training and minimal guidance to interview uncooperative witnesses, although frequently encounter them in their practice. Findings overall indicate detrimental effects of lack of witness cooperation on effective information elicitation, and highlight the need for specialised interviewing techniques to overcome witness reluctance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2021
EventInternational Investigative Interviewing Research Group: Virtual Conference -
Duration: 8 Sept 202110 Sept 2021


ConferenceInternational Investigative Interviewing Research Group
Abbreviated titleiIIRG 2021


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