A successful criminal investigation can be conducted if the investigator has adequate information about the person to be interrogated. The background information about the interviewee can be obtained by studying and understanding his culture. This paper will discuss the elements of American culture that investigators need to know when interrogating Americans. The paper will begin with an overview of the culture. This will be followed by an analysis of the culture. The analysis will identify the three most important facts about the culture that should be considered during investigations.
Where the Culture is found
The culture consists of the various, values, rituals, beliefs, and traditions that citizens identify with in different states in the US. Figure 1 in the appendix shows that the US (where the culture is found) is located in North America. American culture is a byproduct of cultural integration that occurred as people from different parts of the world migrated to the US.
Overview of the Culture
The family is very important in American culture since it is the main source of socialization, as well as, material and emotional support. The nuclear family is the most dominant family structure in the US (Dunn, 2012). However, single parent and stepfamilies are increasingly becoming common in the US.
Traditionally, the husband was considered the head of the family in the US. However, sexual liberation in the 21st century has led to equal distribution of power and authority between husbands and wives in the US households (Crunden, 2006). Marriage is increasingly becoming meaningless in the US due to high divorce rates and lack of commitment to long-term relationships. Moreover, marriage occurs between a man and a woman, as well as, members of the same sex.
The dressing style in the US is predominantly casual. However, formal dressing is preferred among businesspersons. Generally, Americans prefer to wear casual clothes such as jeans to maintain a relaxed or easygoing lifestyle. The American cooking style has mainly been influenced by the Europeans (Crunden, 2006). Fried chicken, hamburgers, and black-eyed peas are some of the foods that are popular among Americans.
The American culture promotes hard work and success. Every member of the American society expects to realize their dreams and attain financial success through personal effort rather than assistance from others. The American culture does not favor any particular religion. However, nearly 75% of the country’s citizens are Christians. English is “the main language in the US since it is used by nearly 90% of the population” (Crunden, 2006, p. 12). However, Spanish and French are also used in the country albeit by a minority of the population.
Analysis of the Culture
The American culture promotes individualism. This means that Americans are expected to take care of only themselves and the immediate members of their families (Dunn, 2012). In this respect, socialization mainly takes place in schools and families since members of the society prefer to maintain their privacy and limited interactions. Nonetheless, Americans are often willing to interact with strangers. Individualism is reflected in the American culture in terms of the citizens’ endless quest for independence and justice for all. Consequently, lack of fairness and equal treatment are some of the main factors that often cause tension in the American society.
The American culture is associated with a low power distance. This means that Americans do not accept unequal distribution of power in their society. At the workplace, Americans believe that everyone’s opinions are important. Thus, consulting employees on various management issues is one of the major customs in the US. Generally, leaders in the US are expected to engage their followers in dialogue to articulate their differences (Dunn, 2012). Thus, being assertive during negotiations or disagreeing with another person’s opinion in public is not a source of embracement in the US. Decision-making processes are also participatory in the US due to the low power distance.
The American culture is characterized by a low uncertainty avoidance index. Americans are likely to take risks rather than address life challenges using pragmatic approaches. The implication of this cultural trait is that Americans are open to new ideas and different ways of doing things such as criminal investigations. As a result, the citizens of the US focus on promoting freedom of expression. This leads to effective socialization since citizens are allowed to express their opinions freely and to challenge their seniors and leaders. Another major implication of the risk taking culture is that Americans do not like a lot of rules that govern their behavior (Dunn, 2012). In this respect, rules that interfere with individual freedom often cause tension and conflicts in the US.
The American culture promotes achievement and success at the individual level. In particular, the culture promotes competition rather than cooperation among citizens. The behavior of Americans is mainly informed by the belief that a person should always win or be the best in the society. As a result, Americans always set measurable targets, which they strive to achieve by competing with others for resources. Moreover, Americans believe that some level of conflict should be allowed in the society to enable individuals to do their best to succeed. In this respect, interrogating an American can be very difficult since he/ she is likely to be determined to win by withholding the required information (Newburn, 2013).
Americans use a direct communication style to avoid misunderstandings. Clear communication helps in avoiding the conflicts or embarrassments that are likely to arise due to misunderstandings. In this respect, Americans focus on the literal rather than the implied meaning when communicating with others (Crunden, 2006). However, using informal communication to convey important messages is a custom that Americans value. Thus, an interviewer is expected to understand and use the direct communication style in order to get the desired information from an American (Barak, 2009).
The US is a universalistic society where rules determine the behaviors and interactions among citizens. Americans believe that rules are more important than personal relationships. The implication of this belief is that Americans expect rules or laws to be applied in a transparent and fair manner (Newburn, 2013). In this respect, an investigator should know that Americans believe that there is only one truth. Thus, failure to agree on what should be accepted as the truth will inevitably cause conflicts between the interviewer and the interviewee.
Americans value their time and often take offense if kept waiting for too long. Thus, Americans always strive to be punctual when attending a meeting or an appointment. Moreover, sending an apology in advance when an individual expects to be late is a custom that is highly regarded in the American culture (Crunden, 2006). This cultural trait means that an investigator can create a positive rapport with an American by keeping time during an interview.
Three most Important Facts
First, investigators should know that American victims and suspects always demand for justice and equality. Therefore, investigations should be done in a manner that promotes fairness by ensuring truthfulness during interrogations. Moreover, American suspects are likely to resist forceful interrogation since they believe in equality and independence.
Second, investigators should be aware of the fact that American witnesses do not like ambiguity in messages or communication. Thus, the investigator must ask clear questions and make clarifications when necessary to avoid misunderstandings (Newburn, 2013). Moreover, the investigator should consider the literal rather than the implied meanings when obtaining information from witnesses. This will prevent misrepresentation of facts during investigations.
Finally, lack of cooperation or resistance among American suspects is a fact that investigators should know. Since the US is an achievement society, suspects are likely to focus on achieving their objectives such as avoiding being arrested rather than cooperating with investigators. Thus, the investigator has to deal with resistance by avoiding interrogation tactics that might be considered unfair by the suspects.
The American culture promotes individualism and equal distribution of power. Americans expect fairness in all aspects of their society to promote harmony and individual freedom. Moreover, their culture promotes individual achievement and competition. One of the things that I have learnt that will enable me to interact with and understand Americans is that their culture promotes freedom of expression. Thus, I expect Americans to challenge my opinions. Moreover, I expect Americans to be explicit and assertive in their conversations.
Barak, G. (2009). Criminology: An integrated approach. London, England: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
Crunden, R. (2006). A brief history of American culture. New York, NY: M.E Sharpe.
Dunn, C. (2012). American culture in peril. Frankfort, KY: University Press of Kentucky.
Newburn, T. (2013). Criminology. New York, NY: Routledge.