Rapport building is effective for fostering a comfortable environment and facilitating communication between interacting parties in many professional interviewing contexts (e.g., therapy, counselling). Rapport is also recommended in forensic contexts, such as interviews between police officers and witnesses/suspects, or between probation officers and their service users. However, little research exists investigating how police and probation officers conceptualise rapport, how rapport can be operationalised for practice, or what impact rapport has on forensic interviews; research that does exist has several limitations. The current thesis aimed to address these current gaps in knowledge.
Study 1 investigated the impact of clusters of verbal and non-verbal rapport behaviours (separately and combined) on mock witness memory, finding that non-verbal behaviours were highly effective towards establishing rapport and guiding memory recall, while verbal behaviours had negative or inconsequential effects. Study 2 investigated the views of UK police officers regarding rapport building when interviewing suspects, finding that officers generally regarded rapport as a positive relationship that enhanced communication and increased information gain, and they reported using several verbal and non-verbal rapport behaviours in practice – although, a minority of participants disagreed. Finally, study 3 investigated the views of probation officers regarding rapport building with service users. Again, rapport was regarded as having a positive impact on supervision and participant views were conceptualised into a general rapport-building process, but a myriad of organisational barriers hindered following this process effectively in practice.
This research provides a unique insight into rapport, both by showing how forensic interviewers use rapport in practice and the challenges they face, but also by providing evidence of several rapport behaviours that can be used easily and effectively in forensic interviews. Thus, a novel contribution to the current rapport literature is made, and several key implications for Police/Probation services, as well as future research are highlighted.