Crisis Intervention in Policing and Beyond: Exploring Determinants of Empathy-based Rapport-Building

Zaiser, Benjamin
(2023) Crisis Intervention in Policing and Beyond: Exploring Determinants of Empathy-based Rapport-Building. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis documents a series of consecutive investigations into predictors of empathy and rapport during critical incidents in law enforcement and crisis intervention in general. First, an explorative inquiry (Study 1) interviewed five accredited crisis negotiators from Germany, the United Kingdom, and Canada. It performed a cognitive task analysis and found a prevalent set of (a) challenges, which are often interacting with each other, and (b) strategies, which crisis negotiators rely on during their deployment. These results equip practitioners with a better understanding of the challenges and a more effective way of utilizing strategies to effectively address them. They also point out under-researched areas in crisis negotiation literature. Second, as crisis negotiators mentioned physical and mental exhaustion to be an inhibitor of their empathetic effort across all interviews, two randomized-controlled field experiments (Study 2 & 3) tested 52 German crisis negotiators (within subjects) on their capacity to empathize when ego depleted. They both confirmed the null hypothesis: there was no statistically significant difference in the level of empathy communicated by the crisis negotiators between control and ego depletion condition. These results contribute to the current discussion surrounding the replication crisis of the ego depletion effect. Third, during the coding of the simulated crisis negotiations, crisis negotiators appeared to communicate in distinct ways that inadvertently undermined their efforts to empathize and build rapport with the subject. This serendipitous find was further investigated and validated using quantitative data analysis (Study 4). The study resulted in the identification of five cognitive biases and the insight that conventional approaches to empathy-based rapport-building have limits. The results can be effectively implemented in crisis intervention training and contribute to the theoretical discussion of empathy and the role it plays for rapport-building. Fourth, due to its conceptual relevance to empathy, projection bias was selected for further inquiry. To triangulate the findings of the qualitative data analysis (Study 4) with different methods and a different sample, an online study (Study 5) surveyed 132 crisis negotiators, police officers on patrol duty, and (non-police) crisis workers. The sample was primarily recruited from Canada and the United States. The results (a) corroborate the findings of Study 4, (b) demonstrate differences in the prevalence of projection bias between the different occupational sub-samples, and (c) provide a deeper understanding of how projection bias can undermine effective empathizing. Practical implications are discussed in terms of education and training for all professional crisis intervenors. In addition, the instrument constructed for this study contributes to future projection bias research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2024 12:27
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2024 12:27
DOI: 10.17638/03176759
  • Cole, Jon