Emphatic Denial and Explanatory Denial

Emphatic Denial and Explanatory Denial


A denial is the act of a suspect refusing to accept that a claim he/she is charged with is the truth. There are various forms of denials but emphatic and explanatory denials are going to be discussed in this text. Emphatic denial involves a forceful and a precise expression or action. It is a denial in which the suspect expresses him/herself in an aggressive and self-assured way. Explanatory denial on the other hand is a kind of denial in which the suspect uses an explanation to express him/herself.


Explanatory and emphatic denials are both used by suspects during an interrogation to defend themselves. For the case of explanatory denial, the defendant uses a narration or an explanation to prove his or her innocence. For instance, in a case where a husband being examined why he killed his wife, he may say, “am not the one who murdered my wife because I love my wife very much.” In most cases, explanatory denials are likely to be true. The guilty suspect makes truthful statements in order to divert the interrogator from discovering the truth (Zulawski & Wicklander, 2002, p. 355). The suspect uses explanatory denial to hide the real scenario of the case or to prevent the interrogator from knowing the truth.

In emphatic denial, the suspect does not give a story in his or her defense. The suspect refuses to give direct answers to the questions asked. A good example is a case whereby an individual is asked what action is to be taken if a person is caught having burned a house down without an intention to do so.  The suspect may say that, “a person who is caught trying to burn a house down should be although that person is not me.” In this kind of denial, an individual refuses to own up his/her actions as the ones that caused the crime.



Emphatic denial is the most common type of denial. It is a response to a reasoning made by the interrogator. It is basically a defense used by the person being accused to protect him/herself.  Emphatic denial can be expressed verbally or physically. The accused may shake his/her head back and forth to show disagreement with what the interrogator is saying (Zulawski & Wicklander, 2002, p. 345). The suspect may also tighten the muscles around the mouth, take in a deep breath to prepare to give a speech and ensure a stern eye contact with the interrogator.

Verbal behavior is also used by the defendant trying to interrupt the interrogator in order to be allowed to make a denial.  The suspect may use certain statements in order to interrupt the interrogator in an attempt to seek permission to be allowed to make a denial. The statements include: “can I…”, “please sir…” or “may i…” followed by an emphatic denial (Zulawski & Wicklander, 2002, p. 346). However, the interrogator may stop the interruption that may be caused by the denial by raising the hands in a “stop” sign while raising the tone, volume , increase the speed of his/her speech and look away from the suspect.

In the case of explanatory denial, the suspects try to elaborate their innocence by giving excuses why they could not have been the ones who committed the crime. The suspects may use statements such as, “I could not have committed such a crime since my parents did not bring me up in that manner…” The interviewers accept the denial pretending it is true and then instantly include it in their process of rationalization and use the explanation against the suspect. They respond by turning around the statement as they continue with the rationalization process hence discouraging the suspect from using the same denial since it did not bring the expected or desired results. The interrogators make use of statements such as: “well said, that one tells me that…” or “I now clearly understand…”

The interviewers use these statements to enable them to shun arguments with the suspect and also ensure that the focus and full control of the interrogation is maintained. Sometimes, an interrogator is unable to use certain explanatory denials and turn them around. Allegations of discrimination based on sex or race are not built upon by the interrogator. Instead, the interrogator should respond with an understanding of the perception of bias and explain the investigation process and emphasize the non-bias aspects of fact-finding in investigations. (Zulawski & Wicklander, 2002, p. 357).


In summary, both explanatory and emphatic denials are similar in that they occur in the interrogation process. The main difference between the two types of denials is how the interrogator responds and how the suspects strive to prove their innocence. In emphatic denial, the defendant does not give a story to express him/her. In contrast to explanatory denial, the suspect gives a narration explaining why he/she could not be the doer of the crime accused of. The interrogator should also maintain the focus of interrogation.



Zulawski, D. E., & Wicklander, D. E. (2002). Practical Aspects of Interview and Interrogation (Second Edition ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.


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