Expert Q&A With

R. Edward Geiselman is the co-developer of the Cognitive Interview technique. He has been a Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, for over 30 years. He earned his Bachelors degree from Purdue University in 1972 where he studied engineering and psychology. Subsequently, he earned both Masters and PhD degrees from Ohio University in experimental psychology.

Since joining the faculty at UCLA, he has published over 100 research papers in social-science and police-science journals. He is the author of five books including The Psychology of Murder, Intersections of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Law (Volumes 1, 2, & 3), Eyewitness Expert Testimony, and Memory Enhancing Techniques for Investigative Interviewing: The Cognitive Interview

Professor Geiselman has served on the Los Angeles Superior Court Expert Witness Panel for 18 years and has offered expert testimony in over 350 criminal trials for both federal and state courts. Professor Geiselman has conducted training and offered other consulting services for numerous investigative agencies including the FBI, Homeland Security, Secret Service, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Singapore Police Force, Health and Human Services, NTSB, LA Metropolitan Transit Authority, U.S. Marine Corps, and Walter-Reed Army Hospital. He also conducts investigative interviews for local police departments in ongoing cold-case investigations.

What is your connection with the Institute of Analytic Interviewing?

I am on the faculty of the Institute of Analytic Interviewing. The Institute is composed of experts in a variety of areas relevant to investigative interviewing and obtaining the truth from subjects. The Institute offers 40-hour courses tailored to the needs of a target audience. The Institute website describes the modules that are available as well as the faculty.

Tell us about your classic book - ‘Memory Enhancing Techniques for Investigative Interviewing: The Cognitive Interview’

Cognitive Interview Book

This book is a manual on how to conduct an investigative interview to maximize the amount of information gained from a subject while maintaining a high rate of accuracy. This is a manual for practitioners is based on the first ten years of research conducted by Dr. Ron Fisher and myself at UCLA and Florida International University.

We will be working on an expanded second volume that should be available in 2015, but I would not change a thing contained in the first volume and it describes the basics in a how-to fashion. The book has been translated into other languages as well, such as Japanese and Korean.

The cognitive interview (CI) has received considerable research attention toward perfecting the protocol for a variety of subject populations. A meta-analysis of this research was published in 1999 and another in 2010. The CI is now standard procedure at many investigative agencies worldwide.

Are there more verbal or visual cues to deceit?

That depends on whom you ask and what situation is being examined. The cognitive interview for suspects (CIS) is geared toward obtaining large amounts of information from a subject, in part because most research shows that most liars hate to say more than the minimum necessary to comply with the interview.

Elements of the CIS also allow ample opportunity for the subject to reveal the deception on his/her own, such as when he/she is unexpectedly asked to draw the scenario or to tell the story backward. Basically, the chances of accurately detecting deception go up dramatically when the interviewer gets actively involved in the process rather than simply observing the subject, waiting for an indictor to give the subject away.

This is not to say that some visual indicators are not more reliable across conditions than others. Grooming behaviour is a good one, for example, unless the subject shows this nervous behaviour even during baseline conditions.

Police training manuals often contain myths associated with lie catching. Why is this?

I am not sure that most police training manuals in the USA contain lots of myths, per se, but most of them are based on the "confrontation interrogation" methodology, where issues with false readings of deception are a concern. In my opinion, there has been a distinct movement away from relying on early confrontation in an interview, and to hold back until near the end when the subject is challenged in a strategic way. This rapport-development, information-gathering approach allows for an examination of the subject's reaction to the unexpected challenge as well. This is how it is done in the CIS protocol.

It also is important to note that most people, including those in law enforcement are terrible at looking at a face and guessing "truthful or deceptive." But fortunately this is not how most detectives judge truthfulness in the real world. They often have external evidence to use strategically to ratchet up the level of cognitive load, and they do get involved in the dyadic exchange with the subject rather than simply observing the subject's mannerisms during confrontational questioning.

Who inspired you to pursue a career in detecting deception?

Actually, my background is in memory retrieval and investigative interviewing - in particular, interviewing victims and witnesses of crime. About 5 years ago, I was approached by the LASD and the LAMTA to become involved in a program about interviewing suspicious persons in mass transit situations. This is during consensual conversations with commuters. Given this task, I first surveyed the literature on detecting deception and then began a program of research of my own which is ongoing at present. The development of the CIS is a relatively new development.

How does having an adept understanding of body language affect your private life?

Not at all. Everyone in this field knows better than to try this at home. I must admit, however, that eventually you can see right through most folks you meet and/or you see on TV in the news...or at least you think you can.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of pursuing a career in behavioral science or lie detection?

Go to the American Psychological Association website and look for Division 41 (psychology and law) - then click on the programs around the USA, UK, or Canada that are currently active. Find a program where at least two faculty members generally share your interests, and then apply. This "strategy" has worked for scores of my own undergraduate students - they are in places that amaze me working at high levels in very important agencies, not to mention that they already earn twice as much as me as a university professor.

What have you got planned for the rest of 2012?

I will be continuing my research program at UCLA on alternative training routines for teaching the detection of deception. This includes the further testing and refinement of the CIS. I also am very busy sharing what I have learned in my research with law-enforcement agencies at their request. Currently, I offer two-day classes on the CI/CIS, plus presentations with the IAI (investigative interviewing and obtaining the truth) and the Force Science Institute (interviewing following officer-involved shootings).

Learn More

Click Here to visit Professor Geiselman's UCLA webpage.

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