The Psychology of Confessions
Posted: 27 Dec 2008
Date Written: December, 23 2008
Despite the potency of confession evidence in criminal law, recent DNA exonerations indicate that false confessions are a contributing factor in numerous wrongful convictions. After distinguishing between voluntary, compliant, and internalized false confessions, this article reviews research implicating a sequence of three processes responsible for false confessions and the adverse consequences of these confessions. First, police often target innocent people for interrogation because of erroneous judgments of truth and deception made during preinterrogation interviews. Second, innocent people are sometimes induced to confess as a function of certain police interrogation tactics, dispositional suspect vulnerabilities, and naive mental state that accompanies innocence. Third, people cannot readily distinguish between true and false confessions and often fail to discount those confessions they perceive to be coerced. At present, researchers are seeking ways to improve the accuracy of confession evidence and its evaluation in the courtroom.
Keywords: police interrogations, Miranda, lie detection, wrongful convictions
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