A Theory of Ethics to Guide Investigative Interviewing Research


  • David A. Neequaye University of Gothenburg




disclosure, ethical investigative interviewing, human intelligence source, psychological manipulation, suspect, witness


This article examines ethical considerations relevant to the formulation of psychological investigative interviewing techniques or methods. Psychology researchers are now devoting much attention to improving the efficacy of eliciting information in investigative interviews. Stakeholders agree that interviewing methods must be ethical. However, there is a less concerted effort at systematically delineating ethical considerations to guide the creation of interviewing methods derived from scientific psychological principles. The disclosures interviewees make may put them at considerable risk, and it is not always possible to determine beforehand whether placing interviewees under such risks is warranted. Thus, I argue that research psychologists aiming to contribute ethical methods in this context should ensure that those methods abide by a standard that actively protects interviewees against unjustified risks. Interviewing techniques should provide interviewees, particularly vulnerable ones, with enough agency to freely determine what to disclose. Researchers should explicitly indicate the boundary conditions of a method if it cannot achieve this standard. Journal editors and reviewers should request such discussions. The suggested standard tasks research psychologists to be circumspect about recommending psychological techniques without fully addressing the ethical boundaries of those methods in their publications. I explain the proposed ethical standard’s necessity and discuss how it can be applied.


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