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Modeling the Influence of Investigator Bias on the Elicitation of True and False Confessions


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The aim of this study was to model various social and cognitive processes believed to be associated with true and false confessions by exploring the link between investigative biases and what occurs in the interrogation room. Using the Russano et al. (Psychol Sci 16:481-486, 2005) paradigm, this study explored how perceptions of guilt influenced the frequency and type of interrogation tactics used, suspect's perceptions of the interrogation process, the likelihood of confession, and investigator's resulting perceptions of culpability. Results suggested that investigator bias led to the increased use of minimization tactics and thereby increased the likelihood of false confessions by innocent participants. In contrast, the manipulation of investigator bias had no direct or indirect influence on guilty participants. These findings confirm the important role of investigator bias and improve our understanding of the decision-making process associated with true and false confessions.
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Modeling the Influence of Investigator Bias on the Elicitation
of True and False Confessions
Fadia M. Narchet Christian A. Meissner
Melissa B. Russano
Published online: 14 December 2010
ÓAmerican Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2010
Abstract The aim of this study was to model various
social and cognitive processes believed to be associated
with true and false confessions by exploring the link
between investigative biases and what occurs in the inter-
rogation room. Using the Russano et al. (Psychol Sci
16:481–486, 2005) paradigm, this study explored how
perceptions of guilt influenced the frequency and type of
interrogation tactics used, suspect’s perceptions of the
interrogation process, the likelihood of confession, and
investigator’s resulting perceptions of culpability. Results
suggested that investigator bias led to the increased use of
minimization tactics and thereby increased the likelihood
of false confessions by innocent participants. In contrast,
the manipulation of investigator bias had no direct or
indirect influence on guilty participants. These findings
confirm the important role of investigator bias and improve
our understanding of the decision-making process associ-
ated with true and false confessions.
Keywords Confessions Interrogations
Investigator bias Confirmation bias
Current police interrogative practices have been a source of
debate and interest within the psychological, sociological,
criminological, and legal fields for several decades (see
Gudjonsson, 2003; Kassin, 1997,2005; Kassin &
Gudjonsson, 2005; Kassin et al., 2010; Leo, 2008). One
point of concern has involved research indicating that
modern day, psychologically based interrogation practices
can lead individuals to provide false confessions for crimes
that they did not commit. According to data from the
Innocence Project (, between
20 and 25% of the over 200 cases of wrongful conviction
known to date have been due, at least in part, to a false
admission or confession (also see Drizin & Leo, 2004).
Survey data collected by Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson
(1994; Gudjonsson and Sigurdsson 1996; Gudjonsson,
Sigurdsson, Asgeirsdottir, & Sigfusdottir, 2006) in Iceland
indicated that between 7 and 12% of individuals who have
been interrogated report having provided a false confes-
sion, whereas a recent survey of police investigators in the
U.S. estimated that 5% of ‘‘innocent’’ suspects provide a
false admission of guilt (Kassin et al., 2007). Taken toge-
ther, these data suggest that the false confession
phenomenon occurs in our criminal justice system to a
significant degree.
Given the growing awareness of this phenomenon,
social scientists have begun to examine factors that may
lead individuals to implicate themselves in a crime that
s/he did not commit (see Kassin et al., 2010). The over-
whelming data from these studies suggest that two primary
factors appear to be associated with the elicitation of false
confessions, namely, the implementation of psychologi-
cally manipulative interrogation techniques and individual
difference characteristics that make some suspects more
vulnerable to interrogation than others (including the age,
mental ability, suggestibility, and psychological state of the
individual; for a review, see Gudjonsson, 2003). More
recently, research has suggested that pre-interrogation
biases of ‘‘guilt’’ on the part of investigators may lead to
F. M. Narchet (&)
University of New Haven, West Haven, CT, USA
C. A. Meissner
University of Texas, El Paso, TX, USA
M. B. Russano
Roger William University, Bristol, RI, USA
Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465
DOI 10.1007/s10979-010-9257-x
the use of heavy-handed interrogation tactics that are more
likely to produce false confessions—a process that results
in confirmation bias in the evaluation of confession evi-
dence (Kassin, Goldstein, & Savitsky, 2003; Meissner &
Kassin, 2004). This study investigates this link between
investigative biases and the conduct of interrogations in an
attempt to better understand the social and cognitive pro-
cesses that underlie the process of confirmation bias in both
the production and evaluation of confession evidence.
Interrogation Techniques that Increase the Likelihood
of False Confessions
Kassin and McNall (1991) have suggested that most
interrogation techniques can be categorized into either of
the two groups, namely, minimization or maximization.
Techniques that employ minimization are considered the
‘gentler’’ of the two groups. Such techniques use a more
subtle form of persuasion when attempting to convince a
suspect to confess—for example, the interrogator might
underplay the seriousness of the act/crime and lull the
suspect into a false sense of security by offering sympathy,
face- saving excuses, and moral justification for why he or
she may have committed the crime. In contrast, maximi-
zation techniques involve a more aggressive form of
persuasion when attempting to convince a suspect to con-
fess, including methods that exaggerate the seriousness of
the crime and/or the magnitude of the offense. Under this
class of techniques, the interrogator might also offer false
evidence (such as an eyewitness identification or DNA
evidence) in an effort to intimidate the suspect.
The first laboratory study to examine the phenomenon of
false confessions was conducted by Kassin and Kiechel
(1996). In their now- famous ‘‘Alt key’’ paradigm, partic-
ipants were asked to complete a typing task in which they
were explicitly instructed not to hit the ‘‘ALT’’ key because
it would cause the computer to crash. After the typing task
began, the computer would crash, and the experimenter
would accuse the participant of hitting the forbidden key
(despite each participant being actually ‘‘innocent’’ of the
act). Kassin and Kiechel found that the increased vulner-
ability on the part of the suspect (i.e., memory uncertainty)
and the presentation of false evidence (i.e., false eyewitness
testimony) significantly increased the false confession rate.
Researchers have continued to employ the Kassin and
Kiechel paradigm to investigate other possible influences,
such as a pre-existing state of stress (Forrest, Wadkins, &
Miller, 2002), the gender of the interrogator or suspect
(Abboud, Wadkins, Forrest, Lange, & Alavi, 2002), the
suspect’s age (Redlich & Goodman, 2003), individual
difference variables such as locus of control and authori-
tarianism (Forrest, Wadkins, & Larson, 2006), the
consequences of confession (Horselenberg, Merckelbach,
& Josephs, 2003), and the use of minimization and maxi-
mization techniques (Klaver, Lee, & Rose, 2008).
Most recently, Russano, Meissner, Narchet, and Kassin
(2005) developed a novel experimental paradigm to
explore factors that may influence the likelihood of true
and false confessions. The Russano et al. paradigm takes
advantage of the culture of an academic setting by inducing
participants to engage in a transgression that carries sig-
nificant consequences for students within a university
environment, namely, cheating on an academic task. Only
half of the participants were actually guilty of the trans-
gression (via experimental manipulation); however, both
the guilty and the innocent alike were later interrogated by
the experimenter. During the interrogation, participants
were exposed to techniques that included aspects of mini-
mization and/or were provided an explicit offer of leniency
in exchange for their confession. These techniques were
compared to that of a basic accusatorial control condition
in which a direct accusation of guilt was made, the seri-
ousness of the transgression was stressed, and suspect
denials were shut down followed by a request for com-
pliance (providing a confession to cheating with the
confederate). Importantly, this paradigm permitted
researchers to examine the influence of certain interroga-
tion techniques on confession rates generated from both the
innocent and guilty participants—thereby allowing for an
analysis of the diagnostic value of the interrogation tech-
nique (the ratio of true-to-false confessions generated). The
use of minimization and/or an offer of leniency increased
both true and false confession rates when compared with
the control condition. Furthermore, diagnosticity was
reduced by 40% with the use of one technique and by 74%
with the use of both techniques in combination. Through
this study, it was sought to extend this paradigm to a more
natural interrogative situation in which experimenters were
trained in the use of 15 different tactics and were permitted
to apply these tactics in any manner they felt appropriate.
This study also sought to examine the role of pre-inter-
rogative biases—or perceptions of the suspects’ guilt or
innocence—on the conduct of interrogations, the elicitation
of confession evidence, and both interrogators’ and sus-
pects’ perceptions of the interrogation.
Behavioral Confirmation in the Interrogation Room
Behavioral confirmation refers to a social interaction in
which an individual’s social expectations influence the
actions of another and thereby confirm the individual’s
expectations. Researchers suggest individuals seek and
interpret information in a manner to support their beliefs
(Darley & Fazio, 1980; Snyder, Tanke, & Berscheid,
Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465 453
1977). This finding has been demonstrated in many dif-
ferent venues including education (e.g., Rosenthal &
Jacobson, 1968) and workplace settings (e.g., McNatt,
2000). Researchers have suggested that interrogators may
be predisposed to perceive guilt on the part of the suspect,
and that this bias toward guilt may activate a process of
confirmatory hypothesis testing that extends into the
interrogation room (Meissner & Kassin, 2004). In one
study, Kassin, Meissner, and Norwick (2005) found that,
consistent with decades of research on deception detection
(Bond & DePaulo, 2006), laypersons and police officers
were no better than chance levels at distinguishing between
true and false confessions made by prison inmates. While
police officers were more confident in their abilities, they
were actually less accurate than college students and were
more likely to demonstrate a bias toward perceiving
‘guilt’’ in the confession statements (see Meissner &
Kassin, 2002,2004).
Kassin, Goldstein, and Savitsky (2003) explored whe-
ther a perception of guilt on the part of investigators might
create a process of behavioral confirmation. Kassin and
colleagues argue that if an interrogator enters the interro-
gation under the assumption that a suspect is guilty, then he
or she would only attend to cues that confirm their beliefs
and discard contradictory cues as insignificant. In the end,
this would lead an investigator to conduct a more guilt-
presumptive interrogation. Kassin and colleagues randomly
assigned participants to play the role of an interrogator or a
suspect in a mock theft scenario. After being advised of the
likelihood that the suspect was guilty or innocent, inter-
rogators were instructed to select up to six techniques that
they might use during the interview. Participants assigned
to the role of suspect were instructed to convince the
interrogator of their innocence. Kassin and colleagues’
findings indicated that interrogators with an expectation of
guilt used more interrogative techniques overall, selected
more guilt-presumptive questions, perceived the suspect as
more likely to be guilty, and exerted more pressure on the
suspect to secure a confession—and these effects were
magnified for those investigators paired with an innocent
suspect. Based on these findings, Kassin and colleagues
suggested that investigative biases may contribute to the
false confession phenomenon through the application of
highly coercive and aggressive interrogative methods—a
hypothesis put to test by this study (see also Meissner &
Kassin, 2004).
In a later study, Hill, Memon, and McGeorge (2008)
extended the research on confirmation bias in investigative
interviews. Using a confession paradigm similar to Rus-
sano et al. (2005), individuals were recruited to participate
in an intelligence task. After initial instructions by the
experimenter, the participant was left with a confederate in
a room with the answers for the intelligence task. The
confederate would ultimately ‘‘find’’ the answers and invite
the participant to use them. If the participant used the
answers, then he or she was classified as ‘‘guilty’’. When
the experimenter returned to the room, he or she noticed
that the answer sheet had been moved and the confederate
was removed from the room. The participant was then
interrogated with either 10 guilt-presumptive questions
(e.g., Are you ashamed of what you did?) or 10 neutral
questions (e.g., What happened when the researcher left the
room?). Although questioning style did not directly influ-
ence confession and denial rates, it did influence the ratings
of independent observers who listened to tapes of the
interrogations. Suspects responding to guilt presumptive
questions were perceived as more culpable than those
responding to neutral questions, particularly those partici-
pants who remained innocent of the act. The authors
suggest that the self-fulfilling prophecy phenomenon may
account for these results. This current study sought to
extend this prior research by assessing the influence of
investigator bias on both the conduct of an interrogation
and the resulting impact on both true and false confessions.
Theories of Confession
Psychologically based interrogation techniques are
believed to encourage confessions largely as a result of
social influence processes that have been shown to produce
powerful effects in psychological studies of conformity
(Asch, 1952), obedience to authority (Milgram, 1974), and
compliance to requests (Cialdini, 2001). In addition, sev-
eral specific theories have been developed to account for
the cognitive and social psychological processes leading to
confession (Berggren, 1975; Gudjonsson, 1989a,1989b;
Hilgendorf & Irving, 1981; Moston, Stephenson & Wil-
liamson, 1992; Ofshe & Leo, 1997; see Gudjonsson, 2003).
In his Cognitive–Behavioral Model, Gudjonsson (1989a,
1989b) extended prior theories of confession to propose
that five factors should be considered when assessing why
suspects confess. These five components include social
factors (e.g., the suspect’s feelings of isolation and their
need for approval or affiliation), emotional factors (e.g., the
suspect’s feelings of distress or anxiety), cognitive factors
(e.g., the suspect’s thoughts and interpretations of the
interrogation situation, including the strength of evidence
presented), situational factors (e.g., pre-existing circum-
stances associated with the suspect, such as his or her
experience with the legal system), and physiological fac-
tors (e.g., the suspect’s aroused physical state, including
heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration). In addition,
while it is possible that a suspect could evaluate both the
immediate and long-term consequences associated with
confessing, it would appear that focusing a suspect on
454 Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465
immediate consequences (e.g., feelings of approval) would
more likely yield a confession.
To date, Gudjonsson’s model (as well as other proposed
theoretical models, e.g., Hilgendorf & Irving, 1981) has
provided an intuitive explanation of the social and cogni-
tive psychological processes associated with confession;
however, little empirical research has been conducted to
examine their validity or to assess the extent to which such
models might appropriately explain both true and false
confessions. This study will attempt to address this paucity
in the literature by providing an empirical test of factors
associated with a participant’s decision to confess using the
Russano et al. (2005) paradigm.
Overview of this Study
The purpose of this study was to model various cognitive
and social processes that are believed to be associated with
true versus false confessions, including the effects of
investigator bias. By manipulating investigator bias, this
study sought to explore the social interactions that may
occur in the interrogation room and to examine whether an
expectation of guilt or innocence might lead interrogators
to employ more guilt-presumptive interrogation techniques
(Kassin et al., 2003). The guilt expectation condition
attempts to mirror police investigations in which a suspect
is interrogated after his/her guilt is established during a pre-
interrogation interview that is supposed to differentiate
between guilty and innocent individuals. In the past
experiments, the interrogator has typically been restricted
to the use of a few interrogation techniques, standardized
by condition. In this present study, however, the interro-
gators were permitted to employ any of 15 different
interrogation techniques for which they had received
training (including aspects of minimization, maximization,
and more generalized investigative interviewing). Fur-
thermore, this study assessed the role of proposed
theoretical factors underlying the decision-making process
in the interrogation room (Gudjonsson, 1989a,1989b).
Following the interrogation, participants completed a
questionnaire indicating why they did or did not sign the
confession statement, which allowed for the assessment of
Gudjonsson’s (1989a,1989b) five-factor model.
To examine the role of investigative biases in the
interrogation process, a path model was proposed to assess
the processes leading to both true and false confessions.
Traditionally, theorists have assumed that true and false
confessions are mediated by similar processes (e.g., see
Gudjonsson, 2003). As such, this study examines whether
the same factors account for both true and false confes-
sions. As displayed in Fig. 1, it is proposed that an
investigator bias toward perceiving guilt will be associated
with an increase in the use of minimization and maximi-
zation techniques. These techniques are expected to then
influence the participants’ perceptions of the emotional,
cognitive, physiological, situational, and social elements
associated with interrogations (e.g., by increasing pressure
Guilt Bias
Investigator’s Post-Interrogation
Perception of Guilt
Decision to Confess
Suspect’s Perceptions
of the Interrogation
(cognitive, social, emotional,
physiological,and situational)
Interrogation Tactics
(minimization and maximization)
Fig. 1 Generalized path model
for the likelihood of confession
Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465 455
to confess), and thereby increase the likelihood of con-
fession for both innocent and guilty participants. Finally,
the experimenter’s post-interrogation perception of the
guilt or innocence of the participant is expected to be
related to the signing of the confession statement and to the
experimenter’s initial belief in the participant’s guilt or
Two hundred and 10 students (mean age =20 years) from
a large southeastern university participated in the experi-
ment. Men represented 36% of the sample, and the self-
reported racial/ethnic background of the participants
included 69% Hispanic, 16% Caucasian (non-Hispanic),
7% African-American or Black Caribbean, 4% Asian
American, and 4% of the participants classified themselves
as the ‘‘other.’’ Participants received course credit in
exchange for participation in the study. Twenty-seven
participants were omitted because they refused to share
information or initiated cheating. Three participants exer-
cised their right to withdraw from the experimental session
and were excluded from analysis. All the participants were
fully debriefed, regardless of when the experimental ses-
sion was terminated.
A 2 (guilt vs. innocence of participant) 93 (investigator
bias: no bias vs. guilt bias vs. innocence bias) between-
participants factorial design was used. The dependent
measures for this study included the number of minimi-
zation and maximization techniques used by the
interrogator, the participant’s perceptions of the interro-
gation process, the participant’s decision to confess, and
the interrogator’s post-interrogation assessment of the
participant’s guilt or innocence.
A questionnaire was developed to assess Gudjonsson’s
Cognitive–Behavioral Model of confession (1989a,
1989b). Cognitive elements included the suspect’s per-
ception of the potential consequences, the severity of
consequences, the proof of evidence against them, and their
feelings of guilt. Emotional elements included the partici-
pant’s perceived levels of stress and anxiety. Physiological
elements assessed the self-reported arousal state of the
participant (e.g., heart rate). Situational elements included
pre-existing factors associated with the participant (e.g.,
whether the participant has been in a similar situation).
Finally, social elements included the participant’s feelings
of isolation and the perceived pressure to confess.
Responses to each question were provided on a seven-point
Likert scale.
Factor analysis was performed on this 22-item ques-
tionnaire to determine whether the five predicted factors
would emerge. The items were analyzed via principle
component analysis with Varimax rotation.
A cutoff of
0.60 was employed when assessing the factor loadings
(Hinkin, 1995). The proposed five elements of the interro-
gation process failed to emerge as expected. Four factors
emerged from the principal component analysis. The first
factor was composed of nine items assessing the physio-
logical and emotional responses (e.g., My heart was beating
fast when the experimenter accused me of cheating) asso-
ciated with the interrogation situation (labeled Affective,
with an eigenvalue of 4.96, accounting for 22.6% of the
variance; a=.90). The second factor was labeled Conse-
quences (with an eigenvalue of 2.90, accounting for 13.2%
of the variance: a=.81). It consisted of four cognitive
items that assessed participants’ perceptions of the severity
of consequences associated with providing a confession
(e.g., I would have been in less trouble if I admitted to
cheating on the triangle problem). The third factor consisted
of four items that assessed cognitive items (e.g., I would
have been in more trouble if I admitted to cheating on the
triangle problem) associated with participants’ feelings of
guilt and perceptions of the proof against them (labeled
Proof/Guilt, with an eigenvalue of 2.90, accounting for
13.2% of the variance; a=.76). The fourth factor was
composed of two items that assessed the situational aspects
of the interrogation (e.g., I have been in a situation similar
to the current one), namely, whether the participant had ever
been in a similar situation (labeled Situational, with an
eigenvalue of 1.70, accounting for 7.8% of the variance;
a=.77). Finally, perceptions of Pressure to confess failed
to load onto one of the factors; however, given prior
research on the importance of this variable (see Russano
et al., 2005), this single item representing the social pres-
sures of the interrogation was used in subsequent analyses.
In addition, experimenters were asked to complete a
post-interrogation questionnaire. The questionnaire inclu-
ded items, such as the type of techniques used and whether
the experimenters believed the participant was actually
guilty or innocent. The questionnaire also asked the
experimenter to express a confidence rating (0–100%)
regarding his or her decision. Finally, lab managers, who
Separate factor analyses were conducted for guilty and innocent
participants; however, the emerging factors were not notably
distinctive. The results of the factor analysis were, therefore,
collapsed across participants’ guilt or innocence.
456 Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465
were responsible for supervising the experimental session,
completed a questionnaire that assessed the length of the
interrogation and the number of techniques used (assessed
via closed-circuit video). Lab managers were blind to
hypotheses. When coding for the variables associated with
the interrogation, inter-rater reliability among the five lab
managers was r=.90.
Pre-training of Experimenters as Interrogators. Eight
men were recruited to play the role of interrogator, ranging
in age from 20 to 25 years old. Experimenters underwent
approximately 5 weeks of training; each read an
abbreviated version of an interview and interrogation
training manual, including a variety of techniques that had
been used by investigators in the field (Gordon & Fleisher,
2006; Holmes, 2002; Inbau, Reid, Buckley, & Jayne, 2001;
Schafer & Navorro, 2004; Zulawski & Wicklander, 2001).
During initial training sessions, tapes of previous
interrogations conducted in the Russano et al. (2005)
paradigm were shown and critiqued for tone and
mannerism. In addition, the experimenters were given
demonstrations regarding how to effectively employ 15
different interrogation techniques both in isolation and in
combination with other techniques. The techniques
included: alternate question, appeal to self-interest, buddy
technique, exaggeration of the offense, expressing a firm
belief in participant’s guilt, explicit offer of leniency, face-
saving excuses, inquisitorial approach, isolation, possible
leniency, presentation of implied false evidence,
presentation of false evidence, silence, and shutting down
denials. The experimenters were encouraged to vary their
use of interrogation techniques and, in particular, were
encouraged to tailor their interrogation strategy to each
individual participant’s reactions. Overall, experimenters
were instructed that their goal was to obtain true
confessions and to avoid obtaining false confessions.
Russano et al. (2005) Paradigm. In general, the
procedures of the Russano et al. (2005) paradigm were
followed. Participants were recruited under the guise that
they would be participating in a problem-solving study.
They were met by the experimenter and a female
confederate posing as another participant. The experiment
was divided into five phases: (1) the rapport building
phases, (2) the problem-solving phase, (3) filler task phase,
(4) the interrogation phase, and (5) debriefing phase.
In the rapport- building phase, the experimenter
explained that the premise of the study was to examine
individual versus team problem-solving skills. After
obtaining informed consent, the experimenter instructed
participants that they would spend a few minutes getting to
know one another since they would be working together for
the remainder of the session. The experimenter then left the
room for 5 min while the confederate engaged the partic-
ipant in a brief rapport-building conversation.
For the problem-solving phase, the experimenter
returned to the room and provided participants with three
questionnaire packets: a ‘‘team’’ problem-solving packet
and two ‘‘individual’’ problem-solving packets. The
experimenter instructed the participants that they would
have to solve the individual problems on their own,
whereas the team problems had to be solved together. They
were told to alternate between the sets of problems,
beginning with an individual problem. The experimenter
stressed that they were not allowed to collaborate on or
discuss the individual problems. The participants were
instructed to alert the experimenter once they completed
the problems so that he could prepare them for another
questionnaire. At that point, the experimenter left the room
and the participants began working on the individual and
team problems.
Before the start of the experimental session, participants
were randomly assigned to either the guilty or innocent
condition. In the guilty condition, the confederate feigned
difficulty with the second individual problem (referred to
as the ‘‘triangle problem’’) and asked the participant for
assistance. When information was shared with the con-
federate, the participant became ‘‘guilty’’ of breaking the
rules of the experiment. In the innocent condition, the
confederate did not seek information from the participant.
After completing the individual and team problems, the
experimenter provided participants with a post-session
questionnaire (filler task) that explored their experience
with the problem-solving session along with a demographic
questionnaire. The experimenter instructed the participants
to notify him when they had completed the questionnaires.
While the participants were completing the filler task, the
variable of investigator bias was manipulated with the
assistance of a lab manager. For each session, experi-
menters were randomly assigned to one of the three
investigator bias conditions. All experimenters were ran-
domly assigned to complete approximately the same
number of participants in each condition. In the guilt
expectation condition, the lab manager informed the
experimenter that based upon what he or she saw on video,
they believed that the participants may have shared infor-
mation. In contrast, the innocent expectation condition
involved experimenters being informed by the lab manager
that they did not believe that the participant shared infor-
mation with the confederate. Finally, a control condition
was also included in which the lab manager claimed that he
or she did not see the video, and so was unable to deter-
mine whether the participant and the confederate had
shared information. No experimenters expressed suspicion
Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465 457
concerning the investigator bias manipulation. Following
the filler task, the experimenter entered the room and
claimed that he had reviewed the problem-solving packets
and that based upon what he saw there might be a problem.
He indicated that he needed to speak with each participant
separately and asked the confederate to exit the room with
him first. The participant was isolated in the room for
7 min.
Following this period of isolation, the experimenter,
who was blind to the actual guilt or innocence of the par-
ticipant, returned to the room and confronted the
participant with the accusation of cheating. In particular,
experimenters were instructed, regardless of condition, to
explain that the participant and the confederate had the
same wrong answer on the triangle problem, and that based
upon this he believed that the pair had cheated by sharing
information on the individual problems. Participants were
told that if they did share information, this would constitute
a major problem because they broke the rules of the
experiment and compromised the integrity of the study.
The experimenter explained that he had called his professor
for instructions on how to handle the situation. He stated
that his professor seemed pretty upset about the situation,
and that the professor might treat this as a cheating viola-
tion. At this point, experimenters were instructed to begin
employing one or more of the techniques they had received
training on. Because of the use of human subject restric-
tions, experimenters were permitted to interrogate
participants under these conditions for up to 15 min.
In the end, the experimenter asked the participant to sign
a written statement admitting to cheating. This statement
constituted an admission of guilt on the part of the par-
ticipant. If the participant signed the confession statement,
then the experimenter also asked the participant to recount
in as much detail as possible what happened during the
problem-solving phase of the experiment. If the participant
refused to sign the statement, then the experimenter
claimed he was going to call the professor and see how he
was to proceed with the situation. Upon exiting the room,
the experimenter completed the experimenter’s post-inter-
rogation questionnaire. Following the interrogation, the lab
manager handled the debriefing phase of the study. The lab
manager explained that they were terminating the experi-
mental session early. After probing for suspicion (i.e., the
lab manager asked the participants to describe the true
purpose of the study), participants were told that the
accusation of cheating had been part of the experiment, and
that further details would be provided after they had
completed one final questionnaire. Participants were then
asked to complete the 22-item debriefing questionnaire.
Following completion of this questionnaire, the lab man-
ager fully informed the participant regarding the true
purpose of the experiment, making certain that the
participant understood the necessity for use of deception
and the collection of covert videotaping of the session.
Participants were given the option of signing a waiver
allowing for the use of their data and video images for
research purposes.
Experimenter Effects
Because this study employed eight different experimenters,
the data were initially tested for experimenter effects. No
systematic experimenter effects were observed on either
true confessions, v
(7) =11.43, p=.12, or false confes-
sions, v
(7) =3.40, p=.85. Across experimenters, true
confession rates ranged from 72 to 100% (M=89%),
whereas false confession rates ranged from 15 to 50%
(M=29%). Consistent with prior research (Russano et al.,
2005), true confessions were significantly more likely
than false confessions, v
(1, N=210) =78.45, p\.001,
OR =20.40, CI
=9.61, 43.28. As might have been
expected, experimenters varied significantly in the fre-
quency with which they employed minimization, F(7,209) =
6.75, p\.001, g
=.18, CI
=.08, .25, and maximiza-
tion, F(7,209) =7.81, p\.001, g
=.21, CI
=.10, .28,
techniques; however, this main effect of experimenter
did not interact with the manipulation of experimenters’
pre-interrogation expectation of guilt or innocence,
Fs(14,163) \.50, ps[.95, g
Influence of Investigator Bias and Interrogation Tactics
on True and False Confessions
A nested Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used to
assess the effect of manipulating experimenters’ percep-
tions of guilt (control vs. guilt vs. innocence) and
participants’ guilt or innocence on the likelihood of con-
fession, with the participants nested within experimenters.
Results indicated a significant main effect of the partici-
pants’ guilt or innocence, F(1,204) =64.59, p\.001,
=.24, CI
=.15, .33, and a main effect of the exper-
imenters’ perceptions of guilt, F(2,204) =3.17, p\.05,
=.03, CI
=.00, .07. As displayed in Table 1, guilty
participants were significantly more likely to confess than
innocent participants, while experimenters’ who were
predisposed to believe the participant to be ‘‘guilty’’ were
significantly more likely to yield confessions when com-
pared with the no-bias control condition, p[.05. The
interaction term failed to reach significance, F(2,204) =
1.66, ns., g
=.02, CI
=-.01, .06.
A nested ANOVA was also used to assess the influence
of the experimenters’ pre-interrogation perceptions of guilt
458 Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465
and the participants’ guilt/innocence on experimenters’
post-interrogation assessments of guilt/innocence. Results
indicated a significant main effect of the participants’ guilt/
innocence, F(1,204) =153.29, p\.001, g
=.43, CI
.33, .51, and a main effect of the experimenters’ percep-
tions of guilt, F(2,204) =11.73, p\.001, g
=.03, .18. In addition, a significant interaction was
observed, F(2,204) =7.39, p\.01, g
=.07, CI
.13. Simple effects tests revealed that guilty participants
were perceived as ‘‘guilty’’ regardless of experimenters’
pre-interrogation expectation, F(2,102) =1.42, ns.,
=.03, CI
=-.04, .10. In contrast, a main effect of
experimenter expectation was observed across innocent
participants, F(2,102) =17.13, p\.001, g
=.25, CI
.11, .37. As displayed in Table 2, innocent participants
believed to be ‘‘guilty’’ (via pre-experimental manipula-
tion) were significantly more likely to be perceived as
‘guilty’’ following the interrogation when compared with
those in the control and innocence conditions, ps\.001.
Finally, this study explored the relationship between the
type of interrogation tactics employed by the interrogators
and the guilt or innocence of the participants on the like-
lihood of confession. Interrogations were reviewed and
assessed for whether experimenters employed non-coercive
interview techniques, minimization tactics, maximization
tactics, or a combination of minimization and maximiza-
tion tactics. A nested ANOVA indicated a significant main
effect of guilt or innocence (consistent with the prior
analysis), F(1,204) =127.35, p\.001, g
=.38, CI
.28, .47, and a significant interaction, F(2,204) =8.35,
p\.001, g
=.08, CI
=.02, .15. As displayed in
Table 3, minimization and maximization tactics were
associated with increased false confession rates by inno-
cent participants, and thereby reduced the diagnostic value
of the confession evidence.
Path Models Assessing the Role of Investigative Bias
on True and False Confessions
The tests as listed above assessed the relationship between
investigative biases and interrogation tactics and true ver-
sus false confessions. It is important, however, to
understand the manner in which these variables work to
create a process of behavioral confirmation involving both
direct and indirect effects. This process is believed to begin
with an investigator’s belief in a suspect’s guilt, leading to
a more aggressive interrogation being conducted. Such an
interrogation should lead to a manipulation of the suspect’s
psychological perception of the interrogation and the value
of certain decisions associated with confession. As such,
the suspect should be more likely to provide a confession
when social pressure is the greatest and when the benefits
associated with providing a confession appear the greatest.
Finally, a confession on the part of the suspect should
reinforce the investigator’s belief in the suspect’s guilt—
thereby completing the process of behavioral confirmation.
A path model consistent with the above process (see
Fig. 1) was assessed using the data set obtained in this
study. Variables in the model included (a) the pre-inter-
rogation investigator bias manipulation of guilt (guilt vs.
innocence/control); (b) the frequency of minimization (e.g.,
alternate question, appeal to self-interest, buddy technique,
offers of leniency, and face-saving excuses) and maximi-
zation techniques (e.g., exaggeration of offense,
exaggeration of seriousness of offense, presentation of
false evidence, and shutting down denials) employed; (c)
participants’ perceptions of the interrogation via their
perceptions of their affective reaction, their perception of
the consequences associated with confessing, their per-
ception of proof and feelings of guilt, their perception of
Table 1 Proportion of true and false confessions as a function of the
experimenter’s bias toward guilt or innocence
No bias (control) 0.83 0.20 4.15
Innocent bias 0.89 0.26 3.42
Guilt bias 0.89 0.47 1.89
Table 2 Experimenters’ post-interrogation perceptions of guilt as a
function of their pre-interrogation bias of guilt or innocence and the
participant’s guilt or innocence
Guilty participant Innocent participant
No bias (control) 0.75 0.13
Innocent bias 0.87 0.02
Guilt bias 0.89 0.50
Table 3 The relationship
between interrogation tactics
and the proportion of true and
false confessions
True confession False confession Diagnostic value
Non-coercive interview 0.96 0.03 32.00
Minimization 0.98 0.22 4.45
Maximization 0.92 0.11 8.36
Minimization and maximization 0.73 0.43 1.70
Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465 459
the pressure placed upon them to confess, and their per-
ception of situational elements associated with the
interrogation; (d) participants’ decision to confess; and (e)
experimenters’ post-interrogation perceptions of partici-
pants’ guilt. The same path model to participants in both
the guilty and innocent conditions was applied, and the
extent to which the same parameters emerged. When
evaluating the fit of each model, we relied upon the fol-
lowing indicatorswere relied on: v
/df ratio, the
Comparative Fit Index (CFI), the Goodness-of-Fit Index
(GFI), and the Root-Mean-Squared Error of Approximation
(RMSEA). For good model fit, the ratio of the Chi-Square
value to the degrees of freedom should not exceed 2.0. The
goodness-of-fit indices (i.e., the CFI and GFI) are stan-
dardized and range from 0 to 1, with 1 representing perfect
fit. Finally, a RMSEA value below .08 is generally believed
to indicate good fit (Joreskog & Sorbum, 2000). Table 1
presents the standardized parameter estimates and signifi-
cance values of each path in the innocent and guilty
models, as well as significance tests for differences across
the two models.
Innocent Model. The innocent path model produced
good overall fit to the data, v
(12, N=105) =9.38,
p=.67, with v
/df =.78. Both of the standardized indices
also suggested good model fit, CFI =1.00 and GFI =.98,
with RMSEA =.00. Consistent with prior research (Kassin
et al., 2003) and predictions, a pre-interrogation investigator
bias toward guilt significantly increased experimenters’
use of both minimization and maximization techniques
when interrogating innocent participants. In addition,
minimization tactics yielded the strongest effects on
participants by increasing their perceptions of pressure to
confess and their affective reactions to the interrogation
process. Both the use of minimization techniques and strong
perceptions of pressure to confess were associated with
an increased likelihood of participants providing a false
confession. Such confessions by the innocent were also more
likely to be associated with participants’ perceptions of
greater proof and feelings of guilt during the interrogation.
Finally, experimenters were significantly more likely to
falsely perceive the participants as having been ‘‘guilty’
when they provided a confession, and when they had initially
been led to believe that the participants were guilty (i.e., the
presence of an investigative bias).
Taken together, the innocent model explained 32.6% of
the variance in false confessions, and 33.1% of the variance
in experimenters’ post-interrogation perceptions of guilt.
While the manipulation of investigator bias of this study had
only a marginally significant direct effect on the elicitati on of
a false confession (p=.08), the impact of investigator bias
appeared to have been moderated by its effect on the
increased use of minimization techniques which, both
directly and indirectly through participants’ perceptions of
pressure, was associated with an increased likelihood of false
confessions. Consistent with this interpretation, investigator
bias produced a significant indirect effect on participants’
perceptions of pressure to confess (b=0.37, CI
0.73, p=.04), whereas a marginally significant indirect
effect of minimization techniques was observed on the
elicitation of false confessions (b=0.04, CI
0.07, p=.07). This production of false confessions led to a
rather prominent effect of ‘‘confirmation bias’’ in that the
experimenters were significantly more likely to incorrectly
associate a false confession with an attribution of guilt.
Importantly, the indirect effect of investigator bias on post-
interrogation perceptions of guilt (i.e., the cycle of confir-
mation bias) was also significant (b=0.08, CI
0.16, p=.04). The use of minimization tactics (b=0.04,
=0.01, 0.06, p=.02), along with participants’ per-
ceptions of pressure (b=0.03, CI
=0.01, 0.05,
p=.009) and feelings of guilt (b=0.03, CI
=0.01, 0.07,
p=.02), also demonstrated significant indirect effects in
reinforcing investigators’ post-interrogation attributions of
Guilty Model. The guilty path model also produced
good fit to the data, v
(12, N=105) =13.70, p=.32,
with v
/df =1.14. Both of the standardized indices
suggested good model fit, CFI =.99 and GFI =.98,
with RMSEA =.04. Unlike the innocent model,
manipulation of investigator bias had no significant
influence on the use of minimization or maximization
techniques; however, when used, these techniques did exert
a powerful influence on guilty participants’ perceptions of
the interrogative situation and their resulting decision to
confess. Specifically, minimization tactics were associated
with increased participants’ perceptions of ‘‘pressure’’ to
confess (consistent with that observed in the innocent
model). Minimization and maximization techniques also
influenced participants’ perceptions of proof and feelings
of guilt during the interrogation. With regard to confessions
by the guilty, participants were more likely to admit to
cheating if they perceived greater pressure to confess,
if they perceived fewer consequences associated with
confessing, and if they perceived greater proof and feelings
of guilt during the interrogation. Finally, experimenters
were more likely to make an attribution of guilt post-
interrogation if participants had provided a confession
(consistent with that of the innocent model). Once again,
however, manipulation of investigator bias of this study
was not directly related to the experimenters’ post-
interrogation attributions of guilt.
Overall, the guilty model accounted for 31.9% of the
variance in true confessions, and 17.5% of the variance in
the experimenters’ post-interrogation perceptions of guilt.
460 Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465
Contrary to the innocent model, the indirect effect of
investigator bias was non-significant with respect to the
experimenters’ post-interrogation attributions of guilt (i.e.,
the cycle of confirmation bias; b=-0.001, CI
0.04, ns.). No significant indirect effects were noted on the
elicitation of true confessions; however, both the use of
minimization (b=-0.03, CI
=-0.05, -0.01, p=.05)
and maximization techniques (b=-0.03, CI
-0.01, p=.04), and participants’ perceptions of pressure
to confess (b=0.03, CI
=0.01, 0.05, p=.005), their
perceptions of the consequences associated with confessing
(b=0.03, CI
=0.01, 0.06, p=.02), and their percep-
tions of proof and feelings of guilt (b=0.04, CI
0.08, p=.009), all of these indirectly influenced the
experimenters’ post-interrogation attributions of guilt.
Innocent vs. Guilty Models. A multiple-group
analysis was conducted to statistically evaluate the differ-
ences in model fit across innocent and guilty participants.
The overall analysis indicated significant variation in the fit
of paths across these two groups, Dv
(22, N=210) =
49.75, p=.001. Several significant differences in paths
were noted when assessing pairwise effects. Most
importantly, the powerful effects of investigator bias were
isolated to increasing the use of minimization and
maximization tactics against the innocent participants
(zs=2.05 and 1.99, ps=.04 and .05, respectively), and
with the investigators’ post-interrogation perceptions of
guilt for innocent participants (z=2.65, p=.008). In
addition, minimization tactics were significantly more likely
to yield false confessions of the innocent when compared
with that of true confessions by the guilty (z=2.63,
p=.009). These results suggest that the influence of
investigative bias on the innocent can be clearly seen as a
behavioral confirmation process that begins by increasing
the use of interrogation tactics that elicit false confessions,
ultimately allowing investigators to confirm their belief in a
suspect’s guilt (Kassin et al., 2003; Meissner & Kassin,
Complete Model. Finally, a single path model was also
created,which included both the main effects of expectation
and guilt/innocence, along with the interaction term. This
model produced good fit to the data, v
(13, N=
210) =15.13, p=.30, with v
/df =1.16, CFI =1.00,
GFI =.99, with RMSEA =.03. The pattern of effects in
this model largely confirmed those observed in the separate
analyses of guilty vs. innocent participants (Table 4), and so
Table 4 Path estimates for innocent and guilty models of confession
Innocent model Guilty model
zp b CI
Minimization /Investigator bias 0.63*0.12,1.14 2.41 0.02 -0.06 -0.47, 0.35 0.27 0.79
Maximization /Investigator bias 0.73*0.22,1.24 2.82 0.01 0.06 -0.37, 0.48 0.26 0.79
Affective /Minimization 0.31 0.04,0.58 2.19 0.03 -0.04 -0.26, 0.19 0.34 0.74
Consequences /Minimization 0.04 -0.27, 0.35 0.23 0.82 -0.03 -0.32, 0.25 0.23 0.82
Proof/guilt /Minimization 0.016 -0.08, 0.40 1.28 0.21 20.32 20.58,20.07 2.47 0.01
Pressure /Minimization 0.41 0.07,0.75 2.32 0.02 0.38 0.05,0.71 2.25 0.02
Situational /Minimization -0.02 -0.33, 0.29 0.15 0.88 -0.23 -0.57, 0.11 1.33 0.18
Affective /Maximization -0.06 -0.33, 0.21 0.39 0.70 0.07 -0.14, 0.29 0.65 0.51
Consequences /Maximization 0.03 -0.28, 0.34 0.20 0.84 -0.04 -0.32, 0.23 0.31 0.76
Proof/guilt /Maximization -0.10 -0.33, 0.14 0.83 0.41 20.26 20.50,20.01 2.06 0.04
Pressure /Maximization 0.16 -0.19, 0.50 0.92 0.36 -0.10 -0.41, 0.22 0.58 0.56
Situational /Maximization 0.05 -0.26, 0.36 0.32 0.75 -0.27 -0.60, 0.06 1.63 0.10
Confess /Investigator bias 0.14 -0.02, 0.30 1.76 0.08 0.00 -0.11, 0.10 0.04 0.97
Confess /Minimization 0.07 0.01,0.14 2.04 0.04 -0.05 -0.10, 0.01 1.66 0.09
Confess /Maximization -0.02 -0.09, 0.05 0.62 0.53 -0.04 -0.09, 0.02 1.42 0.16
Confess /Affective -0.02 -0.07, 0.03 0.82 0.41 0.00 -0.06, 0.06 0.08 0.94
Confess /Consequences -0.04 -0.08, 0.01 1.74 0.08 20.07 20.11,20.02 3.14 0.002
Confess /Proof/guilt 0.07 0.01,0.12 2.27 0.02 0.07 0.03,0.11 3.52 0.001
Confess /Pressure 0.08 0.04,0.12 3.96 0.001 0.06 0.02,0.09 3.37 0.001
Confess /Situational -0.02 -0.06, 0.02 0.99 0.32 0.01 -0.02, 0.04 0.82 0.41
Post-interrogation guilt /Confess 0.36 0.22,0.50 4.94 0.001 0.46 0.27,0.66 4.67 0.001
Post-interrogation guilt /Investigator bias 0.29 0.15,0.43 4.11 0.001 0.04 -0.09, 0.16 0.55 0.58
Note: Bolded parameters were significant at p\.05.
Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465 461
let us now focus briefly on the most unique and informative
findings. Most importantly, both the main effect of
experimenter expectation (bs=0.63 [CI
=0.17, 1.09]
and 0.73 [CI
=0.26, 1.20], ps\.01) and the interaction
term (bs=-0.69 [CI
=-1.34, -0.03] and -0.67
=-1.33, -0.01], ps\.05) produced significant
direct effects on the use of minimization and maximization
tactics, respectively, indicating that guilt expectations
increased the use of these techniques, particularly when an
innocent suspect was being interrogated. In addition,
significant direct and indirect effects were observed on the
experimenters’ post-interrogation perceptions of guilt for
both the main effect of expectation (bs=0.28 [CI
0.41] and 0.20 [CI
=0.13, 0.28], ps\.05, respectively)
and the interaction term (bs=-0.25 [CI
-0.06] and -0.08 [CI
=-0.17, -0.01], ps\.05,
respectively), indicating that prior expectations of guilt–
innocence significantly influenced post-interrogation
perceptions of the suspect throughout the process of interro-
gation, and that innocent participants were particularly
susceptible to this process of behavioral confirmation.
The purpose of this present study was to examine the
process of behavioral confirmation by manipulating
experimenters’ perceptions of guilt or innocence and
assessing the extent to which this manipulation influenced
the use of interrogation techniques, participants’ percep-
tions of the interrogation, and ultimately participants’
decision to confess. Furthermore, experimenters were
asked to provide a post-interrogation assessment of the
likely guilt or innocence of the participant. It was predicted
that investigative biases would have a significant influence
on the frequency of minimization and maximization tech-
niques employed, and that this would initiate a process that
would increase the likelihood of confession, particularly by
those who were innocent. Finally, both the decision to
confess and experimenters’ preliminary biases toward guilt
or innocence were expected to influence the experimenters’
post-interrogation assessments of the guilt or innocence.
This present study adds to our knowledge by examining an
interrogation and its outcomes from the perspectives of
both the interrogator and the suspect. From the perspective
of the interrogator, it provided preliminary insight into
the social processes (i.e., confirmatory feedback via post-
interrogational assessments) that influence the interrogation
situation. We believe one of the major strengths of this
study was that the combination of the ability to choose
from a variety of interrogation techniques and the manip-
ulation of interrogator biases enabled the authors to better
approximate some of the realities of everyday police
interrogations. In addition, this study provided insights
regarding why suspects confess by examining the decision-
making processes that they consider during interrogation.
Key Findings
When examining the direct effects of interrogation tech-
niques on confession rates, the findings indicated that
the use of minimization and maximization techniques
increased the probability of obtaining a false confession
when compared to the use of non-coercive interview
techniques. Due to an increase in false confessions, diag-
nosticity (i.e., the ratio of true to false confessions) was
considerably reduced with the use of minimization and
maximization techniques, most notably when these tech-
niques were used in conjunction.
As predicted, our results indicated a differential impact
of investigator bias on innocent and guilty participants such
that investigator bias increased the likelihood of confes-
sions by innocent participants (mediated by the effect of
minimization tactics), but had no effect on the likelihood of
eliciting confessions from guilty participants. These find-
ings confirm the role of investigator bias in increasing the
use of pressure-filled interrogation tactics (Kassin et al.,
2003), and further demonstrate the cycle of confirmation
bias leading to false confessions and false beliefs in a
suspect’s guilt (Meissner & Kassin, 2004). For example, it
is interesting to note the differential effect of a pre-existing
bias on an interrogator’s post-interrogation assessment of
guilt. Pre-interrogation guilt bias did not affect post-inter-
rogation assessment of guilt for suspects who were actually
guilty (i.e., investigators who had no pre-interrogation bias
were equally likely to judge guilty suspects as ‘‘guilty’
post-interrogation), whereas investigators armed with a
guilt bias were more likely to judge innocent suspects as
‘guilty’’ post-interrogation as compared with investigators
with no pre-interrogation bias. In other words, actual guilt
appeared to ‘‘shine through’’ in the interrogation room;
actual innocence did not. As such, innocent participants are
prone to increased risk to the effects of investigative biases
in the interrogation room.
Some consistent effects were also observed across guilty
and innocent models. In particular, minimization tactics
were associated with increased participants’ perceptions of
pressure to confess, while perceptions of increased pressure
to confess and greater feelings of guilt and perceptions of
proof increased the likelihood of both true and false
confessions. Finally, the production of a confession led
experimenters to infer guilt (regardless of actual guilt or
Overall, the cognitive and social elements of the
Gudjonsson (1989a,1989b) model appear to have been
supported by the data presented in this study. The
462 Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465
emergences of the social and cognitive elements as strong
predictors of confession further enhance our understanding
the process of interrogation and confession from the sus-
pect’s perspective. Individuals who confessed reported
stronger social pressure to confess and stronger perceptions
of the proof against them. The findings also suggest guilty
suspects who weighed the negative consequences of con-
fessing as high were less likely to confess. Further research
seems warranted to help us improve the measures of self-
reported perceptions during the interrogative process
adopted in this study.
Applications of the Findings of this Study
Inbau and colleagues (2001) contend that laboratory find-
ings cannot be generalized to the real-world because ‘‘it is
impossible to reproduce the real life motivational incen-
tives of someone facing serious consequences as in an
actual interrogation’’ (p. 443). While it is clear that the
pressures and reality of real world interrogations can never
be completely accounted for within a laboratory setting (or
ethically reproduced in a controlled experimental sce-
nario), we believe that the current paradigm provides for
the transposition of relevant psychological processes
associated with interrogation (see Meissner, Russano, &
Narchet, 2010). In particular, the authors argue that stu-
dents immersed in a university culture are necessarily
concerned with avoiding the commonly-understood con-
sequences that accompany charges of academic
misconduct (e.g., suspension from the university, the loss
of a scholarship, or the public stigma associated with
cheating). Similarly, criminal suspects who are accused of
violating laws in the real world are concerned with
avoiding the negative consequences that accompany
admission of a criminal act. Both of these scenarios rep-
resent implicit understandings that admissions of wrong-
doing are associated with significant negative conse-
quences in their respective environments. Just as most
criminal suspects experience distress and anxiety in the
context of an interrogation (Gudjonsson, 2003), our student
participants in this study proclaim a sincere degree of
social pressure and a significant level of stress related to
dealing with a charge of academic misconduct—a situation
that supports the validity of relevant cognitive processes
via experimental realism (Russano et al., 2005). The
authors believe that it is precisely because of the motiva-
tional context that the paradigm of this study is embedded
within (i.e., a student attempting to avoid the consequences
associated with a university sanction), which allows for the
transposition of psychological processes and dynamics that
are similarly experienced within the motivational context
of real-world interrogation (i.e., a suspect attempting to
avoid the consequences of admission of a criminal act).
On a similar note, it may be tempting to dismiss the
validity of the current paradigm by arguing that the con-
fession rates elicited using this laboratory method fail to
represent the base rates of true and false confessions elic-
ited in the real world. We believe that such an analysis is
inappropriate for a number of reasons. For example, a
variety of factors can influence the absolute levels of
confessions across real-world and laboratory-interrogative
settings, including the magnitude of the actual or perceived
consequence associated with confessing, the length of an
interrogation, and the number of techniques applied. In this
current study, true and false confession rates were some-
what higher when compared with the study conducted by
Russano et al. (2005)(?17% for true confessions, ?5% for
false confessions); however, this is most likely attributable
to a more intensive interrogation phase and the application
of multiple interrogative techniques by experimenters
(when compared with the more restrictive, script-based
approach used by Russano et al., 2005). Again, our data
regarding confession rates are not intended to replicate
confession rates that may be observed under real-world
conditions; rather, the authors believe that the generaliz-
ability of our research lies in the ability of the current
paradigm to model (and manipulate) the social and cog-
nitive processes that interrogators and suspects undergo
and to assess the effects of such variables on the increased/
decreased likelihood of confession.
Taken together, this study provides compelling evidence of
the role of investigative biases in producing more guilt-
presumptive and pressure-filled interrogations, leading to a
process of behavioral confirmation in which innocent sus-
pects are placed at great risk to providing a false confession
(Kassin et al., 2003; Meissner & Kassin, 2004). In addition,
this study was the first of its kind to explore the social and
cognitive factors associated with both guilty and innocent
participants’ decisions to confess and, as such, our findings
provide some validity to the models of confession proposed
over the years (Gudjonsson, 1989a,1989b; Hilgendorf &
Irving, 1981). Clearly, further research is warranted to
continue the investigation of the psychological processes
leading to confession, and to better understand the vul-
nerability of innocent suspects within the interrogation
room (Meissner et al., 2010). The authors believe that the
current paradigm provides for the transposition of these
important processes within a controlled, laboratory setting,
yet maintains important legal and ethical considerations in
the protection of human subjects. While this study has
identified an important risk factor associated with false
confessions (namely, the role of investigative biases), it
Law Hum Behav (2011) 35:452–465 463
will be important for researchers to begin assessing
interrogative approaches that assist law enforcement by
maximizing the diagnostic value of a confession (Meissner,
Hartwig, & Russano, 2010). By identifying some of the
decision-making processes associated with suspect con-
fessions, we hope that this study has provided researchers
with a manner in which to validate and further develop
theoretical models of interrogation that will promote the
creation of novel approaches to achieving true confessions
while protecting the innocent suspect who may 1 day find
themselves in the interrogation room.
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... Research suggests that innocent people waive their rights at higher rates than guilty people (Kassin & Norwick, 2004) because these individuals feel they have nothing to hide, do not wish to look guilty, believe their innocence will be obvious, or do not fully appreciate the threat posed by an interrogation (Guyll et al., 2013;Kassin, 2005). When an innocent individual is presumed guilty, investigators are more likely to use highly pressuring tactics, which increases the likelihood to false confessions (C. A. Meissner & Kassin, 2004;Narchet et al., 2011). Of the 2,400 exonerations that have occurred the United States since 1989, 12% contained false confessions (National Registry of Exonerations, 2020), and even police investigators estimated that roughly 5% of innocent suspects confess during interrogation (Kassin et al., 2007). ...
... Conversely, interrogators using minimization tactics attempt to minimize the seriousness of the offense by offering excuses, expressing sympathy, or implying leniency in exchange for cooperation (Horgan et al., 2012). Research has identified not only that use of maximization and minimization techniques are individually more likely to result in false confession (Kassin, Appleby, et al., 2010;Klaver et al., 2008), but also that the combination of both techniques results in further reduction of the diagnostic value of a confession (Narchet et al., 2011). One maximization tactic in particular, the presentation of false incriminating evidence, has consistently been demonstrated to increase the likelihood of false confession (Perillo & Kassin, 2011). ...
This study introduced a novel laboratory false confession paradigm to research on true and false confession. Participants were 91 undergraduates who were given the opportunity to cheat on a research task. All were ultimately accused of cheating. Of participants innocent of cheating, 17.9% confessed. Results suggest that the current paradigm complements existing paradigms. In addition, this paradigm has useful strengths. With appropriate modifications, it can be used to study rates of false confession among youth and allows for manipulation of paradigm-specific factors so that future research can study which of these factors lead to true confessions but minimize false confessions.
... maximisation and minimization techniques) (Meissner et al., 2015;Russano et al., 2019;Vrij et al., 2017). Investigators adopting the accusatorial approach tended to be biased towards the guilt of suspects and are often focused on eliciting confessions during their interviews, sometimes through the use of psychologically manipulative techniques (Kassin et al., 2003;Meissner & Kassin, 2004;Meissner et al., 2014;Narchet et al., 2011). ...
... Some investigators may use such behaviours regardless of whether they plan prior to their interviews. This could be due to their prior training and/or investigative bias (Narchet et al., 2011), rather than to compensate for the lack of planning. Nevertheless, the reported use of such behaviours was here found to be significantly associated with the perceived frequency of negative interview outcomes. ...
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Pre-interview planning is vital in interviews with suspects. Via a questionnaire administered to 596 police investigators in Singapore, the current study examined potential associations between pre-interview planning, interviewing behaviours and interview outcomes. Interviewing behaviours were hypothesised to mediate the relationship between pre-interview planning and interview outcomes. It is posited that pre-interview planning fosters an investigative mindset, which in turn, influences the nature of interviewing behaviours employed by investigators. The study also sought to provide insights into police interviews with suspects in Singapore, given the limited research from Singapore on the topic. Rapport-based interviewing behaviours were found to mediate the relationship between pre-interview planning and positive interview outcomes, contributing empirical support to the importance of pre-interview planning. In addition, accusatorial interviewing behaviours were associated with negative interview outcomes. This study also found that police investigators in Singapore reported frequent planning prior to their interviews and used rapport-based interviewing behaviours with suspects. These behaviours are in line with the interviewing model adopted in Singapore. Regression analyses showed that participants’ endorsement of rapport-based approaches was predicted by investigator experience, confidence, and interview length. Endorsement of pre-planning of interviews was also predicted by investigator confidence and interview length. Implications of these findings are discussed.
... Specifically, two factors could influence whether an interrogation will result in a false confession from an innocent person: (1) if interrogators enter an interrogation with an a priori assumption of the suspect's guilt and (2) how rapport is used during the interrogation. Assumptions of guilt can be problematic because interrogators who believe the (innocent) suspect is guilty are more likely to induce a false confession because they are more likely to use coercive interrogation tactics (Narchet et al., 2011). Theoretically, then, interrogation approaches that encourage assumptions of guilt will be more likely to induce false confessions, while interrogation approaches that avoid assumptions of guilt should minimize false confessions. ...
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This is the protocol for a Campbell systematic review. The objective is to assess the effects of interrogation approach on confession outcomes for criminal (mock) suspects.
... In AHT cases the interrogator, whether the doctor or a police officer, often believes the accused is guilty based on medical opinion. Research [39][40][41] has shown that interrogators who already presume guilt ask more incriminating questions, conduct more coercive interrogations, and try harder to get a confession. The more accusatory the interrogation, the greater the risk of a false confession. ...
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Several influential articles that attempt to establish diagnostic methods for Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) use admitted cases as a reference standard. This study analyses a survey of people accused of AHT in France, to understand the environment and situations in which such admissions are made. Multiple reasons to question the reliability of admissions to AHT are demonstrated in the responses, including reduced sentences, the return of children to the family home, a desire to stop accusations being leveled at a partner and for legal proceedings to end. These factors must be considered in the context of proceedings that are long, expensive and stressful, leading to depression and financial hardship, and that seem to be inevitably heading towards conviction. The ineluctable conclusion is that admitted cases do not make a suitably reliable reference standard for undertaking scientific investigation, or for validating the diagnostic methods used for AHT.
... On the other hand, innocent suspects may not actively manipulate their behaviors because they have an overwhelming belief that their innocence will easily be seen by interrogators (Kassin, 2005). Consequently, more innocent suspects may be mistakenly judged as deceitful by police, as officers have been shown to have a bias towards judging suspects as guilty (e.g., Kassin, 2005;Meissner & Kassin, 2002;Narchet et al., 2011). ...
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Police officers are often trained to use the Behavior Analysis Interview (BAI) to detect deceit, but it is based on faulty indicators of lying that may be especially problematic for juveniles due to developmental immaturities. Juveniles, young adults, and adults were assigned to guilt or innocence conditions, read a criminal scenario, and self‐reported their likelihood of providing truthful and deceitful responses during a hypothetical BAI. All participants indicated they would give more truthful than deceptive responses. Guilty participants reported more use of strategies to appear innocent, while innocent participants said they would behave naturally. Juveniles were more likely to choose deceitful responses and say they would use strategies to appear innocent during a police interview but endorsed fewer stereotypical cues of deception compared to adults. Juveniles may not recognize how certain behaviors could be seen as cues to deception, which could put them at risk of being misidentified as guilty. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Forschungsarbeiten fokussierten in der Vergangenheit v. a. auf zwei problematische Gruppen von Vernehmungstaktiken, die nicht nur die Wahrscheinlichkeit wahrer, sondern insbesondere auch falscher Geständnisse erhöhen und somit riskant sind: Minimierung und Maximierung (z. B. Kassin und McNall 1991;Narchet et al. 2011). Gemein haben diese Taktiken, dass sie explizit auf die Erlangung von Geständnissen abzielen. ...
Zusammenfassung: Polizeiliche Entscheidungsträger*innen und Ermittelnde in Deutschland erhalten regelmäßig Aus- und Fortbildungsangebote zu Methoden der Lügenerkennung und zu Vernehmungstaktiken für Beschuldigte, die teilweise unseriös sind. Keinesfalls sollten ineffektive oder ungeprüfte Methoden und Taktiken durch die Polizei angewandt werden, da sie gravierende Folgen für unschuldige Personen (z.B. Freiheitsentzug, soziale Schäden) und die Bevölkerung (z.B. weitere Straftaten durch die eigentlichen Täter*innen, sinkendes Vertrauen in die polizeiliche Ermittlungstätigkeiten) nach sich ziehen können. Besonders problematisch sind pseudowissenschaftliche Angebote, die nicht systematisch geprüfte oder nachweislich ineffektive Inhalte vermitteln, jedoch wissenschaftlich begründet scheinen (z. B. aufgrund des Titels oder der Berufsbeschreibung der anbietenden Personen). Dieses Positionspapier will diese Problematik beleuchten und Personen aus der polizeilichen Lehre und Praxis dazu anregen, Angebote kritisch zu prüfen und schwerpunktmäßig theoretisch fundierte und nachgewiesenermaßen effektive Methoden zum Einschätzen von Falschaussagen (z.B. anhand von Widersprüchen) und Konzepten zur Vernehmung Beschuldigter anzuwenden. Schlüsselwörter: Vernehmung; Täuschung; Geständnis; polizeiliche Ausbildung und Fortbildung; Pseudowissenschaft Abstract: Police decision-makers and investigators in Germany regularly receive training offers on methods for lie detection and interview/interrogation tactics for suspects. However, some of those methods and tactics are unserious. Ineffective or untested methods and tactics should not be used by the police, as they can have serious consequences for innocent people (e.g., detention, social damage) and the population (e.g., further crimes by the actual perpetrators, decreasing trust in police investigative work). Particularly problematic are pseudoscientific offers that provide non-systematically tested or even proven ineffective methods/tactics that appear to be scientifically based (e.g., because of the title or job description of the offering person). This position paper aims to highlight this issue and wants to encourage individuals in police training and practice to critically scrutinize offers and to focus on theoretically sound and proven effective methods for assessing false statements (e.g., based on inconsistencies) and concepts for interviewing suspects. Keywords: Interview/interrogation; Deception; Confession; Police training; Pseudoscience
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The work aims to consider issues related to the peculiarity of interrogating suspects with the participation of an interpreter in the investigation of crimes during the preliminary investigation. The specificity of this situation is determined by the fact that the criminal procedural legislation of the Russian Federation for a person who does not speak language of legal proceedings or does not have a sufficient level of this language provides for the right to use the services of an interpreter free of charge. At the same time, the tactical recommendations for interrogation that exist in forensic science are developed for a situation when the subject of law enforcement and the interrogated person communicate in the same language. In addition, a significant difficulty in interrogation is the very terminology related to various spheres of human activity, which is as important for an interpreter as the ability to translate. The method of achieving the stated goal is to compare tactics typical for the situation of monolingualism and multilingualism of participants in criminal proceedings. The article deals with the organizational, tactical and psychological features of interrogation of a suspect: characteristics of pre-interrogation situations, interrogation tactics, features of presenting evidence in order to obtain truthful testimony. The article shows significant differences in interrogation of a suspect with the participation of an interpreter in the investigation of crimes.
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Objectives The “cheating paradigm” is an often-used procedure that randomly assigns participants to cheat (guilty) or not cheat (innocent). However, not all participants conform to their assigned condition. We investigated the potential impact of including non-conformers in analyses under an intent-to-treat model (ITT) on decisions to confess, plea, and waive Miranda rights.Methods We conducted a series of meta-analyses with studies that used the cheating paradigm to study the legal decisions of mock suspects and that provided enough statistical information for all participants.ResultsOverall, non-conforming guilty participants had lower odds of confessing, pleading guilty, and waiving Miranda rights than conforming guilty participants, whereas non-conforming innocent participants had higher odds. Importantly, including non-conforming participants under an ITT model attenuates, but does not eliminate, the effect of guilt status on decisions. Conclusions These findings highlight how willingness to cheat influences legal outcomes and that researchers need to more carefully consider non-conforming participants.
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Recently, in a number of high-profile cases, defendants who were prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced on the basis of false confessions have been exonerated through DNA evidence. As a historical matter, confession has played a prominent role in religion, in psychotherapy, and in criminal law-where it is a prosecutor's most potent weapon. In recent years, psychologists from the clinical, personality, developmental, cognitive, and social areas have brought their theories and research methods to bear on an analysis of confession evidence, how it is obtained, and what impact it has on judges, juries, and other people.
Effective Interviewing and Interrogation Techniques, Third Edition is a practical manual which provides the forensic practitioner/investigator critical insight into human behavior, enabling one to become a better interviewer, interrogator and, most importantly, an expert detector of truthful and deceptive behavior. The Forensic Assessment Interview Technique (FAINT) and the Integrated Interrogation Technique (IIT) were developed at the Academy for Scientific Investigative Training and are used by forensic practitioners and investigators to detect truthful or deceptive behavior. FAINT is applicable to all forensic type interviews and incorporates the assessment of nonverbal behavior, projective analysis of unwitting verbal cues, statement analysis and the Morgan Interview Thematic Technique (MITT). This volume teaches how to combine, apply and quantify these techniques to reach a numerical conclusion to the truthfulness of the interviewee. The third edition expands chapters on torture, assessing the interview, statement analysis, MITT, and interrogation. It contains new chapters on passenger screening, and report writing, along with new case studies. Also covered are ways to maximize the collection of information from a prospective employee, and legal considerations.Gordon and Fleisher have created a one-stop guide to mastering the art of credibility assessment during an interview, with successfully tested techniques for obtaining a confession from guilty suspects. Forensic practitioners, law enforcement, the intelligence community, the private security sector, attorneys, and forensic and criminal justice students will all find this volume a valuable resource. . The only book to address FAINT, IIT, and MITT in one source. Enables the interviewer to obtain a confession that can stand up in court. Includes an online workbook with practical exercises to assist the reader. Assessment Interview Technique (FAINT) and Integrated Interrogation Technique (IIT) developed at the Academy for Scientific Investigative Training and used by forensic practitioners and investigators to detect truth or deceptive behavior. "FAINT" is applicable to all forensic type interviews where the interviewer is attempting to make a determination of the interviewee's truthfulness concerning a specific area of inquiry. It is used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, parole and probation officers, psychologists and therapists, security and private investigators, the legal and business communities. The 3 rd edition will expand chapters on Torture; Assessing the Interview; Statement Analysis and the Morgan Interview Thematic Techniques and Interrogation. New chapters will be added on Interviewer appearance and demean report writing and additional examples present in the second edition. In addition the authors will create an online workbook as a supplement to the book, which will provide the reader with practical exercises to enhance the skills acquired from reading the book. . Will teach the reader how to ask the right questions and recognize truth and deception in an interviewee. Enables the interviewer to obtain a confession that can stand up in a court using a proven interrogation technique. Explains when to record interviews and interrogations to accurately document information.
This volume, a sequel to The Psychology of Interrogations, Confessions and Testimony which is widely acclaimed by both scientists and practitioners, brings the field completely up-to-date and focuses in particular on aspects of vulnerability, confabulation and false confessions. The is an unrivalled integration of scientific knowledge of the psychological processes and research relating to interrogation, with the practical investigative and legal issues that bear upon obtaining, and using in court, evidence from interrogations of suspects. Accessible style which will appeal to academics, students and practitioners. Authoritative integration of theory, research, practical implications and vivid case illustration. Coverage of topical issues like confabulation, false memory, and false confessions. Part of the Wiley Series in The Psychology of Crime, Policing and Law.
This paper is in four parts. First, “interrogative suggestibility” is defined and its essential components are described. This is followed by a description of the ways in which interrogative suggestibility differs from suggestibility of other types. The author then presents a theoretical model of interrogative suggestibility, which he developed in cooperation with Noel Clark, his colleague in psychology. Finally, data on the testing aspects of the theoretical model are presented.
Confession, particularly false confession, is so self-evidently interesting to the psychologist that it might seem unnecessary to begin by defining where our interest in the topic lies. Nevertheless we wish to draw a distinction between confession as an interesting phenomenon to be studied for what it can tell us about human motivation and so on, and confession as a taxing practical problem for the legal profession. As applied psychologists our central concern is with the problem rather than the phenomenon itself.