‘Any friend of yours is a friend of mine’: investigating the utilization of an interpreter in an investigative interview

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Psychology, Crime and Law


Premised on a body of literature suggesting target-interviewer rapport is a critical component of successful interviews, we explored the effect of two interpreter-related variables–the physical placement of the interpreter in the room, and the nature of the relationship between the interpreter and the target–on target-interviewer rapport. A total of 125 bilingual (Spanish/English) participants viewed a mock crime video and were then interviewed, via an interpreter (or not). Interpreters either built rapport with the participant immediately prior to the interview or did not, and were either seated beside the interviewer or behind the target, commensurate with recommendations from training manuals. When the interpreter and target engaged in a short rapport-building session prior to an investigative interview, the target rated their interaction with the interviewer less negatively compared to when rapport building did not occur. Furthermore, when the interpreter sat behind the target, the target viewed the interaction more negatively than when the interpreter sat beside the interviewer (triangular configuration). These findings suggest ways in which interpreters can be utilized more effectively, especially in terms of seating configuration, rapport development between a target and interpreter, and importantly, the potential for that target-interpreter rapport to transfer to the target-interviewer relationship.

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