The U.S. military is testing an Iowa State University psychology professor’s theories about which tactics work best when questioning terrorism suspects.
“We’re now in our fifth year and we’re actually doing a field validation study with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in which we’re actually training more than 100 of their investigators with the new science-based methods,” says ISU professor Christian Meissner.
Meissner has been leading an international team of researchers on this topic. He says they’ve discovered the “scientific approach” yields better results “to understanding what factors might be important in eliciting cooperation and eliciting information from individuals who would be reticent to provide it,” Meissner says.
“With my colleagues here in the US and the UK and Europe and Southeast Aside and even the Middle East, we’ve conducted studies to understand the psychological and contextual factors that will determine whether people will provide information.”
According to Meissner, the tactics that work best in these kind of interrogations are nothing like you see on TV and the movies.
“Shows like Jack Bauer (in “24”) and movies like “Zero Dark 30″ — I think this do a disservice to the discourse around this topic,” Meissner says.
Meissner’s research shows the locked, windowless room is the least effective setting for getting a terrorism suspect to reveal his or her secrets. Hostile or aggressive questioning isn’t effective either.
“Who would you tell your deepest, darkest secret to?” Meissner asks. “Somebody who came in the room, who you didn’t know, who demanded that you be truthful with them and told you the most embarrassing moments of your life or somebody who you got to know over time, developed a relationship with, had trust in and began to be willing to disclose that information?”
Fruitful interrogations would “be very boring to watch,” according to Meissner.