Sleep Deprivation and False Confessions

PNAS, Vol. 113, No.8, 2016, pp.2047-2050

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2016-23

8 Pages Posted: 13 May 2016

See all articles by Steven J. Frenda

Steven J. Frenda

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

Shari R. Berkowitz

University of California, Irvine

Elizabeth F. Loftus

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

Kimberly Fenn

Michigan State University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: May 11, 2016

Abstract

False confession is a major contributor to the problem of wrongful convictions in the United States. Here, we provide direct evidence linking sleep deprivation and false confessions. In a procedure adapted from Kassin and Kiechel [(1996) Psychol Sci 7(3):125–128], participants completed computer tasks across multiple sessions and repeatedly received warnings that pressing the “Escape” key on their keyboard would cause the loss of study data. In their final session, participants either slept all night in laboratory bedrooms or remained awake all night. In the morning, all participants were asked to sign a statement, which summarized their activities in the laboratory and falsely alleged that they pressed the Escape key during an earlier session. After a single request, the odds of signing were 4.5 times higher for the sleep-deprived participants than for the rested participants. These findings have important implications and highlight the need for further research on factors affecting true and false confessions.

Keywords: false confession, sleep depreivation, sleep

Suggested Citation

Frenda, Steven J. and Berkowitz, Shari R. and Loftus, Elizabeth F. and Fenn, Kimberly, Sleep Deprivation and False Confessions (May 11, 2016). PNAS, Vol. 113, No.8, 2016, pp.2047-2050; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2016-23. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2778761

Steven J. Frenda

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

Shari R. Berkowitz

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 62697-3125
United States

Elizabeth F. Loftus (Contact Author)

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

Kimberly Fenn

Michigan State University - Department of Psychology ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48823
United States

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