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Interrogation Techniques using Proxemics

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Interrogation Techniques using Proxemics

Understanding and interpreting nonverbal communication can be difficult but in 1948 John Reid observed and studied behaviors in an interview (Brougham). He understood that individuals portray different behaviors when giving truthful information compared to false. It is not often that you are part of an interview on a daily basis but it is interesting how the human body reacts in situations. When interviewed under stressful conditions, individuals exhibit body movement, body positions, facial expressions, physiological symptoms, and paralanguage.  Investigators are able to use body position, better known as proxemics, to encourage desired and truthful responses. Each individual has four different categories for distance. The first is intimate, which is 0-1.5 feet from the body. Personal space includes 1.5-4 feet from the body. Social space is from 4-10 feet and after that concludes public space (Burgoon). Interviews probably start off in the social space; asking the suspect simple information. Rein believes that investigators can use proxemics to get closer into the suspects or subjects intimate space, where the suspect feels uncomfortable lying. Charles G. Brougham states “When an interviewer creates a high level of anxiety for a psychologically normal person by invading this personal space, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the subject to lie.” Charles also states that starting off the interview at a comfortable distance is wise when getting general information and then moving closer to the subject when questioning. This provides the interviewer to “mentally program the individual to cooperate with the interviewer’s line of questioning.”(Brougham)

Mark Cook also thinks that proxemics is a great way to communicate nonverbally. Cook explains how Argyle and Dean believed that proximity increased intimacy, and therefore affects the tone of the relationship. He also explains how individuals sitting across from each other increases eye contact and encourages a relationship. This too is something investigators probably recognize. It is probably common for an interviewer to start off in an individual’s social space moving into personal space slowly. He then may sit down or stand across from the subject moving closer to a personal and intimate space. This encourages the subject to speak truthfully (Cook).

Nonverbal communication may be difficult to understand sometimes, but proxemics is a great way to use nonverbal communication to encourage truthful speaking whether or not during an interrogation.


Work Cited

Brougham, Charles G. “NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION.” SIRS Government Reporter. ProQuest, July 1992. Web. Nov.-Dec. 2011. http://

Burgoon, Judee K., Laura K. Guerrero, and Kory Floyd. “The Contact Codes: Haptics and Proxemics.” Nonverbal Communication. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2010. 167-68. Print

Cook, Mark. Experiments on Orientation and Proxemics. Vol. 23. Human Relations, 1970. 61-76. Sage Journal Online. Web. Nov.-Dec. 2011. http://



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