Using Stress

Kinesic Interview Techniques Can Uncover the Truth

By Excerpted from the Fraud Examiners Manual - Third Edition, 3.273-3.277, ©2000 Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Austin, Texas


The kinesic interview or interrogation is a method that has become more popular among the law enforcement community in recent years. This type of interview is different than traditional methods because the interviewer isn't necessarily looking for information nor a confession from the interview subject; instead, the interviewer is attempting to assess whether the subject is telling the truth.

In the book "The Kinesic Interview Technique," authors Frederick C. Link and D. Glen Foster define this technique as:

"[An interview technique] used for gaining information from an individual who is not willingly or intentionally disclosing it." 

Link and Foster believe that the kinesic interview technique is based entirely on the concept of stress - an event or circumstance that forces an individual's mind or body out of psychological equilibrium. When stress occurs, humans, as all other living creatures, have an emotional reaction. Link and Foster refer to this as the well-known "fight or flight syndrome," in which we either run from a stressful situation or brace to face it. Either way, they hypothesize, our animalistic tendencies dictate that we must react to stress. The kinesic interview technique is used to attempt to read the interview subject's reaction to stress.

This method relies, in a broad sense, on the interviewer's ability to observe the interview subject for signs or symptoms of deceit. The kinesic interview is conducted not just to observe what the subject says, but also how the subject says it; the subject's gestures, posturing, facial expressions, and voice inflection are just a few of the traits that an investigator looks at. This style of interviewing assumes that when most human beings lie or are deceitful to others, they will reveal this deceit through their "body language."

These reactions are generally subconscious; in most cases, the interviewee doesn't even realize that he or she is acting noticeably different. The actions or signs that an interviewer is looking for are called meaningful behavior - activities that may suggest than an interviewee is under stress.

Link and Foster identify three distinct categories into which meaningful behavior can be divided:

  • self-initiated verbal statements which the interviewee initiates without prompting;
  • prompted verbal responses or statements made by the interviewee in response to structured questions asked by the interviewer; and
  • non-verbal behavior or body language which includes body positioning movements, lack of movement, and observable physiological changes.

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