WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., July 26, 2005-- Research described in the latest 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.
This review is published in the latest issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Psychological Science in the Public Interest provides definitive assessments of topics where psychological science may have the potential to inform and improve the lives of individuals and the well-being of society. It is published on behalf of the American Psychological Society.
Saul Kassin is the Massachusetts Professor of Psychology and founder and chair of Legal Studies at Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He is author of the several textbooks and has co-authored and edited a number of scholarly books.
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Materials provided by Williams College. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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