False Accusations in an Investigative Context: Differences between Suggestible and Non-Suggestible Witnesses

Behavioral Sciences and the Law, Vol.31, pp.574-592, 2013

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2013-146

20 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2013

See all articles by Suzanne O. Kaasa

Suzanne O. Kaasa

Northrop Grumman Technical Services/Defense Personnel Security Research Center

Elizabeth Cauffman

University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology

K. Alison Clarke-Stewart

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior

Elizabeth F. Loftus

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior; University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: October 16, 2013

Abstract

False sexual abuse allegations have spurred research on suggestibility, on the assumption that leading questions may produce false accusations. Most researchers, however, have not measured the likelihood that those who respond to suggestive questioning will take the next step and make a formal (false) accusation. The present study incorporates both aspects of abuse investigations: suggestibility (i.e., responsiveness to questions in a leading interview) and false accusations (i.e., signing a formal complaint against an innocent suspect). Participants (N=129) were observed in a laboratory session and then interviewed twice about their experiences by an interviewer who suggested that the laboratory assistant had behaved inappropriately. Although only 17% of the participants were suggestible, 39% agreed to sign the complaint. Suggestible participants were significantly more likely to make a false accusation than were non-suggestible participants. However, because of the low rate of suggestibility, most false accusations were made by non-suggestible participants. Implications for the legal system are discussed.

Suggested Citation

Kaasa, Suzanne O. and Cauffman, Elizabeth and Clarke-Stewart, K. Alison and Loftus, Elizabeth F., False Accusations in an Investigative Context: Differences between Suggestible and Non-Suggestible Witnesses (October 16, 2013). Behavioral Sciences and the Law, Vol.31, pp.574-592, 2013; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2013-146. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2341358

Suzanne O. Kaasa (Contact Author)

Northrop Grumman Technical Services/Defense Personnel Security Research Center ( email )

Defense Personnel Security Research Center
20 Ryan Ranch Road
Monterey, CA 93940
United States

Elizabeth Cauffman

University of California, Irvine - School of Social Ecology ( email )

226B Social Ecology 1
Irvine, CA 92697
United States

K. Alison Clarke-Stewart

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

Elizabeth F. Loftus

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

University of California, Irvine School of Law

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
33
Abstract Views
925
PlumX Metrics