What to reveal and what to conceal? An empirical examination of guilty suspects’ strategies

Meghana Srivatsav, Pär Anders Granhag, Leif Stromwall, Timothy J. Luke, Aldert Vrij

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


With Study 1 (N=140), we aimed to examine how different ways of disclosing evidence during an interview would influence guilty suspects’ perception of interviewer’s prior knowledge and elicit statement‑evidence inconsistencies. Specifically, we wanted to understand how disclosing or withholding evidence regarding non‑critical topics (i.e., preliminary activities leading to a central criminal act) would lead to different levels of statement‑evidence inconsistencies regarding the critical topic (i.e., the central crime). We predicted that interviews with evidence disclosed would elicit low statement‑evidence inconsistencies whereas interviews where evidence was not disclosed would result in high statement‑evidence inconsistencies. The outcome did not support our predictions. Guilty suspects revealed crime‑related information about non‑critical themes and withheld information regarding the critical theme irrespective of evidence disclosure. We posited that this outcome occurred because the information regarding the non‑critical themes of the crime seemed less incriminating in comparison to information regarding the critical theme. We explored this unexpected finding in Study 2 (N=216), which was designed to understand if guilty suspects would reveal information regarding themes of the crime that are not incriminating in comparison to themes that were incriminating as observed in Study 1. We used the evidence disclosure tactics of Study 1 in Study 2 and also measured how these influence the suspects’ perception of interviewer’s knowledge. The outcome replicated findings from Study 1 that guilty suspects reveal or withhold information based on the cost of disclosing the information. This is a novel finding in the Strategic Use of Evidence literature.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
Specialist publicationInvestigative Interviewing: Research and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


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