Rapport-building in suspects’ police interviews: the role of empathy and face

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Both research and police guidelines acknowledge the value of rapport-building in police interview with suspects (ISs) and provide some insight into how ‘rapport’ may be defined and built in this context. Rapport is, however, difficult to operationalise and assess in practice, other than for the routine legal clarification offered to suspects at the beginning of the interview. This paper takes an original discourse-pragmatic and ethnographic approach to investigating the forms that rapport takes in a sample of authentic ISs, with particular reference to two dimensions, empathy and face. The article discusses the value and suitability of the identified empathic and ‘face’-relevant expressions with respect to current interview aims and practice. The discussion highlights the underlying bi-functionality of rapport in ISs, demonstrating how the two functions may be reconciled and how this understanding of the functions and their relationship may be used to inform interview training and practice.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96–123
JournalPragmatics and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2019


    Research areas

  • rapport, empathy, face, discourse pragmatics, police interviews, suspects, training

Bibliographic note

Gabrina Pounds is Senior Lecturer in Discourse Studies at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Her research focuses on the expression of attitude, subjectivity and emotion in news and advertising discourse and the communication of empathy and person-centeredness in online support forums, medical consultations and other professional contexts. She has published extensively on these topics in Discourse and Society (2010), the Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice (2011), Text and Talk (2011), Applied Linguistics (2016), Discourse Context and Media (2012 and 2018) and Communication and Medicine (2017 and 2018).

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