Cameras may curb false confessions

07/26/05

Research described in a current issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest reviews the science behind false confessions and argues for reform. Saul M. Kassin and Gisli H. Gudjonsson find that people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit for numerous reasons, and suggest recording the interviews and interrogations as a way to curb these false statements. Their research cites that age, amount of education, and mental health status led to a higher number of individuals to falsely confess, as did sleep deprivation and long periods of isolation. The study also addresses police who are not properly trained to judge truth and deception, but are trained to use deceit to solicit confessions. Explaining, "…modern police interrogations involve the use of high-impact social influence techniques [and] sometimes people under the influence of certain techniques can be induced to confess to crimes they did not commit." As a result, some people are eventually convinced of their own guilt while others confess just to end the interrogation. Additionally, the authors address courts where juries are provided these voluntary admissions without instructions guiding them to make a judgment nonetheless. People cannot readily distinguish between true and false confession and police-induced false confessions which often contain vivid and accurate information.

In light of this, the authors call for a collaboration among law-enforcement professionals, district attorneys, defense lawyers, judges, social scientists, and policymakers to evaluate the methods of interrogation that are commonly used. They believe that for people to accurately assess a confession, all interviews and interrogations should be videotaped in their entirety.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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