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WIREs Cogn Sci
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False confessions

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As illustrated by numerous cases in recent years, DNA exonerations of innocent individuals have cast a spotlight on the counterintuitive problem of false confessions. Studying the underlying psychology scientists have found that (1) innocent people are often targeted for interrogation because police make erroneous but confident judgments of deception; (2) certain interrogation techniques—namely, lengthy sessions, presentations of false evidence, and minimization themes that imply leniency—increase the risk that innocent people will confess; (3) certain individuals are particularly vulnerable to influence—notably, those with mental health problems or intellectual impairments, which render them overly compliant or suggestible, and children and adolescents, who exhibit ‘immaturity of judgment’; (4) confession evidence is highly persuasive in court as a matter of common sense, increasing perceptions of guilt, even among judges and juries who see the confession as coerced, and even at times when the confession is contradicted by exculpatory information; (5) Miranda rights to silence and to counsel are not sufficiently protective, so proposals for reform have centered on the mandatory recording of interrogations, from start to finish, and a shift toward using investigative interviewing—a less confrontational, less deceptive means of questioning suspects. WIREs Cogn Sci 2017, 8:e1439. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1439

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Psychology > Reasoning and Decision Making

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