The Sound of Silence…

The use of silence during interrogations can be an effective way to encourage people to provide more information. It can create a feeling of discomfort that may prompt the person to talk in order to relieve the tension.
a crime confession of a prisoner to the detectives

When it comes to interviewing, silence can be golden.

Silence in an interview or an interrogation entails the interviewer asking a question and then remaining silent for a period of time, usually about six to eight seconds. This gives the subject time to think about their answer. It allows the interviewer to gauge their reaction. And it is a powerful psychological tool to prompt further explanation from the subject. 

There are several benefits to using silence. For one, it can help draw out more information from the interviewee. Secondly, it can help put them at ease, as they are not feeling pressure to fill any awkward silences. Finally, it can help build rapport between the interviewer and interviewee as they are both working together to create a dialogue.

Generally,  interrogations  consist of asking questions in order to get a suspect to provide more information. However, there are times when silence can be just as effective, if not more so. In fact, research has shown that suspects are more likely to provide information when they are not being spoken to. This is likely due to the fact that they feel more uncomfortable when there is silence and they feel the need to fill the void.

In many cases, interrogation techniques that rely on verbal prompts from the interrogator are less successful than those that allow suspects to remain silent in certain situations and time during an interrogation. Studies have shown that when suspects are allowed to remain silent, they often feel more pressure to provide information and are more likely to confess to a crime. This is because silence can be interpreted as guilt by the interrogator. Or it is sometimes interpreted as someone trying to “make up a story”.   Silence is a psychological situation that suggests to the suspect that silences should be filled with continual talking. 

Hey man, I saw it on TV

Everyone has watched the television shows. They’ve watched all the cop movies. They expect certain things when they end up in the interrogation room:

  • They expect to be berated.
  • They expect to be accused.
  • They expect to be crowded and pressured.
  • They expect to be cut off.
  • They do not, however, expect a silent friendly face that prompts them to continue telling their story.

Silence is powerful, especially when combined with subtle prompts. Silence can exponentially increase the detail and information provided by the suspect. 

The Downside

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to using this technique. One is that it requires patience on the part of the interviewer. Patience in interviews is often overlooked. You want the information and you want it now. Sometimes the case hinges on the information and waiting is difficult. Also pressure from outside sources (looking at you, supervisors and admin) exacerbate the pressure. 

Also,  if interrogators remain silent and don’t keep their facial expressions and nonverbal language in check, suspects may feel they are not being listened to or that their story is not important. This can lead to frustration and resentment, which, in turn, can make suspects less likely to cooperate.

In Conclusion

The use of silence during interrogations can be an effective way to encourage people to provide more information. It can create a feeling of discomfort that may prompt the person to talk in order to relieve the tension. It can also be used to signal that the interrogator is not going to give up easily, which may make the person feel like they need to provide more information in order to avoid further questioning. In your next interview pay attention to your silent periods. Wait a little longer and see how it will increase the information gathered. 

If you learned something from this article and want to learn more, consider signing up for our interview and interrogation course. Its 40-hours worth of informative, up to date training on interviews and the most scientifically valid information guaranteed to improve your interviews and get more convictions.

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