A Room With a View: Setting Influences Information Disclosure in Investigative Interviews

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Research on embodied cognition and priming show that human behavior is influenced nonconsciously by the environment in metaphoric ways. Previous research has shown that conceptual priming can lead people to disclose sensitive information (Davis, Soref, Villalobos, & Mikulincer, 2016; Dawson, Hartwig, & Brimbal, 2015). Here, we sought to examine whether concepts of openness can be activated to promote disclosure within the interview itself, through the physical setting. In two laboratory studies, participants were exposed to details of a mock environmental terrorism conspiracy through a courier task, which they were subsequently interviewed about in different settings. In Study 1, participants were interviewed in either a room designed to activate openness, or a prototypically enclosed, bare custodial interview room. In Study 2, we manipulated both architectural and interior features of both rooms. Challenging the status quo that a small room is optimal for investigative interviewing, our findings offer compelling evidence that the spaciousness of an interview room can influence a person’s tendency to be “open” with or “closed” about information.

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