On eliciting intelligence from human sources: Contextualizing the scharff-technique

Simon Oleszkiewicz*, Pär Anders Granhag, Steven M. Kleinman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Three techniques for eliciting intelligence from human sources were examined. Two versions of the Scharff-technique (conceptualized as four tactics) were compared against the Direct Approach (open and direct questions). The Scharff confirmation technique used correct claims to elicit information, and the Scharff disconfirmation/confirmation technique used a mix of correct and incorrect claims. The participants (N=119) took the role of 'sources' holding information about a terrorist attack and tried not to reveal too much or too little information during an interview. The Scharff confirmation resulted in more new information than the Scharff disconfirmation/confirmation and the Direct Approach. The sources in the Scharff conditions had a more difficult time reading the interviewer's information objectives. The sources in the Scharff conditions underestimated, whereas sources in the Direct Approach overestimated, how much new information they revealed. The study advances previous work and shows that the Scharff-technique is a promising intelligence gathering technique.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)898-907
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


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