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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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 = 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 humanintelligence gathering tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-110
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Direct approach
  • Human-intelligence gathering
  • Information elicitation
  • scharff technique


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