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Proxemics in Interview Process

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Proxemics in Interview Process
Proxemics can be described as the study of nonverbal communication based on the spatial distances between individuals, as they interact. This term was coined by Edward T. Hall in 1962. He made numerous interviews/studies, in which, he concluded that there are certain spatial distances in which human beings react differently. Hall proceeded to define the personal spaces that surround individuals, as follows:
“Intimate space—the closest "bubble" of space surrounding a person. Entry into this space is acceptable only for the closest friends and intimates. Social and consultative spaces—the spaces in which people feel comfortable conducting routine social interactions with acquaintances as well as strangers. Public space—the area of space beyond which people will perceive interactions as impersonal and relatively anonymous” (Brown, n.d., para. 3).
Criminal investigators are aware of this technique and also apply proxemics during interview/interrogation process. “Interviews probably start off in the social space; asking the suspect simple information” (“Interrogation Techniques using Proxemics”, 2011, para. 1). Beginning the interview in the social space allows the investigator to ask general questions, however when interrogating the suspect it is advisable to move in closer to the suspect. As the investigator continues with the interview, moving in on the suspect’s intimate space will make it uncomfortable for the suspect to be dishonest.
Another technique that investigators/interviewers also use is open-ended and closed-ended questioning during their interview process. “Alternating between the two encourages conversation on the part of the subject, while ensuring that the investigator gets the necessary hard facts” (Scott, n.d., para. 4). Typically, investigators would begin their interview using open-ended questions. By asking open-ended questions, the investigator is able to collect a narrative answer, instead of a simple yes or no. For example, the investigator may ask the suspect to “describe what you saw…”. This allows the investigator to collect additional descriptive information that would not be provided with a closed-ended question. On the other hand, closed ended questions are sometimes used to clarify responses given in open-ended questions and closed-ended questions “are short and to the point, leaving little room for misinterpretation” (Scott, n.d., para. 3). For instance, the investigator may ask the suspect “did you shoot her”? The response will eliminate any ambiguity and is more incriminating.
The above noted questioning techniques are widely used by investigators during the interview process to ensure that they are conducting effective interviews.

Brown, N. (n.d.). Edward T. Hall: Proxemic Theory, 1966. In Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science. Retrieved from

Interrogation Techniques using Proxemics. (December 6, 2011). In Retrieved from

Scott, M. (n.d.). Interviewing & Interrogation Techniques. In Retrieved from

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