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Unspoken language in investigative interviews

Date of event: April 20, 2010

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Event Briefing


The gathering of accurate information during any police investigation is vitally important. Information obtained during interviews can be critical and it is therefore necessary that we are aware of what people reveal through nonverbal visual cues in addition to what they tell us verbally.

Visual communication cues such as hand gestures, facial expressions and eye gaze are central to human communication and although we ‘read’ these cues in day to day interactions there is considerable information contained within them that remains essentially hidden.


The course covers:

  • The meaning and function of gaze and gaze aversion in face-to-face interactions
  • Visual communication cues such as facial expressions, lip configuration and gesture
  • How to read gaze aversion and how to use it as a facilitative tool in interaction
  • The relationship between language and gesture in narrative and how to read hand gestures and understand them in terms of ongoing speech
  • The psychology underlying associated techniques in face-to-face communication as well as across live video links for vulnerable witnesses
  • Skills in reading the ‘hidden information’ of others nonverbal behaviours



This course will be of interest to most personnel but will be of particular relevance to management who undertake staff interviews and those police officers or police staff who regularly carry out interviews with both adults and children.


Delegates will develop:

  • An understanding of the link between non-verbal visual communication cues (such as eye gaze, gesture and facial expressions) and spoken language
  • Skills in using visual communication to facilitate communication with adults and children
  • Up to date knowledge of reading gaze aversion whilst dispelling some myths regarding deception
  • Drivers gaze aversion will be described in relation to use of hands free mobile phones



Professor Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon will present this course. She has over 20 years of research experience in the area of visual communication and has developed an extensive programme of research on gaze, gaze aversion and gesture. She has published over forty books and journal articles in her field. In addition she has a programme of research on facilitating child witnesses. She has been a regular contributor to regional training of child protection officers in Tayside for a number of years. She runs training courses on Investigative Interviewing practices in collaboration with Dundee University and the American Society on the Abuse of Children.

Professor Doherty-Sneddon is member of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR).

The Scottish Police College CPD Programme
Scottish Police College

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