Eliciting Intelligence With the Scharff Technique: Interviewing More and Less Cooperative and Capable Sources

Pär Anders Granhag, Simon Oleszkiewicz, Leif A. Strömwall, Steven M. Kleinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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The objective was to compare the efficacy of the Scharff technique (conceptualized as 5 tactics) with the direct approach (open and direct questions) as a means of eliciting intelligence from human sources. The interview techniques were used with 4 different types of sources varying in their levels of both cooperation and capability to provide information as follows: (a) less willing/less able, (b) less willing/ more able, (c) more willing/less able, and (d) more willing/more able. The sources (N ﰁ 200) were given information about a notional planned terrorist attack and instructed to strike a balance between not revealing too much or too little information in a subsequent interview. Overall, the Scharff technique resulted in significantly more new information than the direct approach, particularly for the less cooperative sources. Furthermore, sources interviewed with the Scharff technique had a more difficult time reading the interviewer’s information objectives and consistently underestimated how much new information they revealed. The study substantiates the Scharff technique as an effective human- intelligence gathering tool.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-110
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number1
Early online date15 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • The Scharff technique
  • Direct approach
  • Human intelligence gathering
  • Information elicitation
  • n/a OA procedure


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