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How intelligence interviewees mentally identify relevant information

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number230986
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/08/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Royal Society Open Science
Issue number8
Number of pages36
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date16/08/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This research explored how intelligence interviewees mentally identify the relevant information at their disposal. We theorized that interviewees estimate the interviewer's objectives based on how they frame any attempt to solicit information. Then interviewees organize the information they possess into item designations that pragmatically correspond to the perceived interviewer-objective. The more an interviewer specifies what they want to know, the more the interviewee will mentally designate information items corresponding with that objective. To examine the theory, we conducted two identical experiments wherein participants assumed the role of an informant with one of two dispositions. They were to be cooperative or resistant when undergoing an interview. The interviewer posed specific or ambiguous questions. In Study 1 (N = 210), interviewees identified applicable information items based on their interviewer's questions. And interviewees answered their interviewer's questions in Study 2 (N = 199). We aimed to demonstrate that question type influences mental designations and disposition affects disclosures. Disposition had a stronger influence on interviewees' disclosure than when reasoning about what the interviewer wants to know. But contrary to our expectations, mental designation preferences indicated that interviewees generally assume interviewers want to know complete details, irrespective of question specificity. We suggest avenues for future research.