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The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context

On-line version ISSN 1989-4007Print version ISSN 1889-1861


MAY, Lennart  and  GRANHAG, Pär Anders. Using the Scharff-technique to elicit information: how to effectively establish the “illusion of knowing it all”?. The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context [online]. 2016, vol.8, n.2, pp.79-85. ISSN 1989-4007.

The Scharff-technique is used for eliciting information from human sources. At the very core of the technique is the “illusion of knowing it all” tactic, which aims to inflate a source's perception of how much knowledge an interviewer holds about the event to be discussed. For the current study, we mapped the effects following two different ways of introducing this particular tactic; a traditional way of implementation where the interviewer explicitly states that s/he already knows most of the important information (the traditional condition), and a new way of implementation where the interviewer just starts to present the information that s/he holds (the just start condition). The two versions were compared in two separate experiments. In Experiment 1 (N = 60), we measured the participants’ perceptions of the interviewer's knowledge, and in Experiment 2 (N = 60), the participants’ perceptions of the interviewer's knowledge gaps. We found that participants in the just start condition (a) believed the interviewer had more knowledge (Experiment 1), and (b) searched less actively for gaps in the interviewer's knowledge (Experiment 2), compared to the traditional condition. We will discuss the current findings and how sources test and perceive the knowledge his or her interviewer possesses within a framework of social hypothesis testing.

Keywords : Interview technique; Social hypothesis testing; Scharff-technique; Human intelligence gathering; HUMINT; Information elicitation.

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