Inbau et al., (1986)

Inbau et al., (1986) – ‘Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 3rd edn, Balitmore, MD: Williams and Wilkins’


This is also referred to as Inbau and Reid (1986)

Please note that this is not a study, it is an interrogation technique.



This is the first piece of research we look at from the ‘Interviewing Suspects’ section of ‘Making a case’. As part of your OCR A2 Psychology Exam. It is further categorised into ‘Interrogation 

First and foremost, you need to understand what interrogation is. Interrogation, simply put is a psychologically and in some cases physically aggressive way of interviewing suspects of crimes.

Interrogation techniques are illegal to use in the United Kingdom. In the United States however, such techniques are widespread.

The technique we will be looking at is called the Reid technique.

One of the main problems with interrogation techniques is that they often illicit false confessions, which is when a person confesses to a crime that did not commit.

There are two background studies that you will need to familiarise yourself with before looking at ‘the Reid technique.’

Davis & Leo (2006) – Davis and Leo (2006) cited over 300 documented examples of false confessions being elicited from the use of interrogation techniques.

Guðjónsson (1992) – Suggests that there are three types of false confession:

  • Voluntary – This is when a person freely confesses to a crime.
  • Coerced Internalised – This occurs when a suspect doesn’t remember where they were when the crime they are suspected of committing was committed. From that point they can be lead to believe that they did in fact commit the crime, even when there is no evidence to suggest that they did commit the crime. The person internalises the idea that they did commit the crime, from that point they start to believe it and then they confess.
  • Coerced Compliant – This occurs when a suspect is put under pressure, similar to in Milgram’s infamous 1963 study, such that they confess, as the person conducting the interrogation wants them to.
The Reid Technique

Inbau developed an approach to present a mass of information to a suspect in attempt to ‘persuade’ them to confess, leading them to believe that they had no other choice. As mentioned earlier, this is a technique widely used in the United States. These techniques are illegal to use in the United Kingdom.

There are nine steps to this technique:

Step One – Direct confrontation. The suspect is told directly that they are thought to have committed the offence that they are being questioned for.

Step Two – The suspect is offered the chance to shift the blame away from him or herself by being offered some suggestions or justifications for what might have happened.

Step Three – The suspect should never be allowed to denial guilt. Interrupt and denial.

Step Four – At this point the suspect will often try to give reasons why they could not have committed the crime. Try to use this to move towards a confession by ignoring them. Eventually the suspect will give up trying.

This step is particularly interesting as behaviourist psychology tells us that this can result in ‘learned helplessness:’

Step Five – Reinforce sincerity to ensure that the suspect is receptive by staying close.

Step Six – The suspect will eventually become quieter and will listen more. At this point move towards offering alternatives.

Step Seven – Post the ‘alternative question’ giving two choices of what the suspect could do, one being more socially acceptable than the other, whichever they choose, they will be admitting their guilt.

Step Eight – Get the suspect to admit guilt in front of witnesses.

Step Nine – Document their admission and get them to sign a confession to avoid them retracting it later.


Inbau et al., Evaluation

– Ethics this technique is highly unethical and could create false confessions.


Audio Podcast

  1. Inbau et al., (1986) – ‘Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 3rd edn, Balitmore, MD: Williams and Wilkins’
Further Reading

Essentials of the Reid Technique – Inbau

OCR A2 Psychology Student Unit Guide: Unit G543: Forensic Psychology (Student Unit Guides)


Article Name
Inbau et al., (1986)
Inbau & Reid (1986) proposed a technique for interrogating suspects. The Reid Technique. It is present in the OCR A2 Forensic Psychology Specification.