‘Let me tell you about myself ’: A method for suppressing subject talk in a ‘soft accusation’ interrogation

Academic Article


  • This article describes interactional features of an interrogation method that is used by law enforcement and private security companies in the US known as the ‘soft accusation’ method. We demonstrate how the method, in contrast to the more common ‘story solicitation’ method, makes use of a ‘telling about oneself ’ activity to actually suppress a subject’s talk by setting up and maintaining an exceptionally long turn by the interrogator. This turn not only constrains subjects’ speaking contributions to the issuing of continuers and acknowledgments, and, as such, their opportunities to challenge or resist, but, based as it is on ‘telling about oneself ’, re-organizes the knowledge differential to one in which it is the interrogator rather than the subject who has primary epistemic rights of disclosure. We provide an overview of interactional problems associated with the story solicitation method and then consider how the soft accusation method is designed to counter them, particularly via practices of informing and describing that are associated with the activity of ‘telling about oneself ’. As we show, these practices make use of techniques of elaboration that provide a resource for turn expansion, as well as for seamless topical movement that works to positively align the subject to the interrogator’s talk and, thus, to smooth the interactional pathway to the subject’s admission of guilt.
  • Authors

  • Kidwell, Mardi
  • González Martínez, Esther
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • February 2010
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In

  • Discourse Studies  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 65
  • End Page

  • 89
  • Volume

  • 12
  • Issue

  • 1