Anatomy of the bait question in interviews

The bait question is a non-accusatory question in which the possible existence of incriminating evidence is implied for the purpose of enticing the subject to change or consider changing his original statements. The bait question may be based on real or fictitious evidence.

A subject denies stealing a woman’s purse from the local library at 4:00 p.m. The subject acknowledges that he was at the library during the day but claims that he left at about 2:00 p.m. At 5:00 p.m., the subject walks past the library and is stopped for questioning by the police based on the fact that he very closely resembled the description of the individual whom the victim had seen in the immediate area when her purse was stolen. The bait dialogue would be as follows:

“You told us that you left the library at two o’clock and later walked past the library at five o’clock. Now I am sure that you are aware that there are surveillance cameras throughout the building. Is there any reason why when we finish viewing all of the security videos that we will see you inside the library at about four o’clock? I am not saying that you were involved in taking the woman’s purse, but you know how easy it is to lose track of time. Is it possible that you could be mistaken on the time and were inside the library at around four o’clock?”

If the suspect accepts the implication of the bait question and changes his story to say that he very may well have still been in the library at four o’clock it would be very suggestive of a deceptive individual. “Well, now that I think about it, I may have still been in the library at four o’clock but honestly, I didn’t take that woman’s purse.”

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