PSC 153 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Reid Technique, Sleep Deprivation, Miranda Warning

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PSC 153 Lecture 3 False Confessions and Interrogations (cont.)
False Confessions
May be more common than we think
Often concern very serious crimes
80% murder cases, 9% rape cases, 3% arson cases
Often provided by “vulnerable” suspects (terrified, under stress, under the influence,
mentally ill, low IQ)
Young age 32% of false confessions are given by underage suspects (under 18)
In context, only 8% of murder suspects and 16% of rape suspects are underage
Limbic System and Prefrontal Cortex not fully developed until early 20s which
means suspects under 20 are more emotional, suggestible, impulsive, and focus on the
Main cause behind false confessions seems to be police interrogation
Main problem: Police want to convict culprit and confession is the best way to ensure
that happens but the culprit does not want to pay for the crime, so the last thing they want
to do is confess
Police need to break down culprits’ resistance to confess
Interrogation Techniques History
Before 1930, beatings and brutality were common
1931 “Report on Lawlessness” in Law Enforcement called attention to problem
More covert forms of abuse (no physical trace)
Intimidation, isolation, deprivation
Sleep deprivation was particularly effective
Since 1960s, confessions resulting from brutality/abuse, threat of violence, deprivation,
prolonged isolation and promise of immunity are inadmissible in court
Since 1966, Miranda Rights, or the rights read to suspect when arrested only 20% of
suspects exercise them, and its underemphasized by police, misunderstood by anxious
suspects, innocent suspects think they have nothing to hide, guilty suspects want to seem
Lines are still blurred, confessions have been admitted when police:
Assembled phony lineups 1978
Promised suspect protection in prison 1991
Held suspect 16 days in cell with no outside contact 1966
Told suspect that murder victim survived and identified them 1974
Modern Techniques
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Good cop/Bad cop approach 2 cops, 1 shows anger and threatens with punishment,
the other shows sympathy and coaxes confession by offering help and understanding
Reid Technique Bible of police interrogation, 9 steps
Confront directly
Develop theme
Handle denials
Overcome explanations
Maintain attention
Handle passive mood and move towards confession
Present an alternative
Elicit oral confession
Transcribe confession
Obtain signature
4 influence strategies:
Loss of control: everything must feel unpredictable, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable,
goal is to make suspect feel vulnerable, anxious, and off-balance
Social Isolation: suspects should be interrogated alone, goal is to deprive suspect of
emotional support and minimize contradictory information
Certainty of Guilt: Make direct accusations and impress suspect with strength of
case by citing real or fabricating evidence, goal is to make suspect feel cornered
Exculpatory scenarios: suggest alternative, more justifiable motives for crime, goal
is to provide an excuse and clear the way for admission of guilt
The strategies imply threats and leniency but don’t explicitly involve either
Lie detection is hard
Confirmatory bias once you believe a person is guilty, you will only accept
information that further supports that
Types of False Confessions
Coerced vs. Voluntary
Instrumental vs. Authentic
Instrumental coerced, instrumental voluntary, authentic coerced, authentic voluntary
Solutions to False Confessions
Video record interrogation preserves all verbal and non-verbal aspects of exchange,
can be reviewed later
Problems: editing/partial showing in court
Effects of visual salience
Social Psychology: study done on the effect of visual salience and perceived causal role,
solution: equal focus on both parties
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Time limits on interrogations will reduce side effects of exhaustion, isolation, and
Average interrogation is about 2 hours long
Reid advises less than 4 hours for interrogation
Average interrogation leading to false confessions is over 6 hours
Supportive, trained adult presence for vulnerable suspects during interrogation aside
from police and parents
Expert Testimony educate jurors on psychological factors potentially affecting
disputed confessions
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