Strategies used by suspects during a police interview

  • Lucy Arnold

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the strategies used by suspects during police interviewing. In Study One, police interviews were directly observed at two different police stations and suspects were observed using strategies which could be grouped into three behavioural styles. These behavioural styles were refined in Study Two and used to differentiate how suspects managed the attribution of blame and their overall level of cooperation: Avoidant (rejects blame and uncooperative), Antagonistic (blames others and competitive), Compliant (accepting blame and cooperative). When the data from Studies One and Two were combined, the same three behavioural styles emerged. But further analysis revealed that suspects do not always show a preference for one behavioural style, suggesting that there is movement between behavioural styles during the course of an interview. The behavioural styles were then mapped onto a model of behaviour used in hostage negotiation research. This identified a second facet to each of the three behavioural styles, which suggested a motivational bases for each strategy: Instrumental, Relational and Identity. Case characteristics (e.g. age, criminal history, offence type) were then incorporated into further analysis, which revealed that the behavioural styles used by suspects differed depending on the characteristics of the case, particularly for suspects using the Antagonistic behavioural style. In the final study, qualitative analysis of the sequence and patterning of suspect behaviours in one suspect interview was carried out, revealing how strategies were used over the course of the interview and exploring why the suspect changed their behaviour. Finally the key findings from this thesis are incorporated into an integrated theoretical framework, and the implications for practitioners are discussed.
Date of AwardMay 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorAldert Vrij (Supervisor), Alessandra Fasulo (Supervisor) & James Alexander Ost (Supervisor)

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