PSYC 3020 Chapter Notes -False Confession, Offender Profiling, Geographic Profiling
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In some countries, people may be convicted solely on the basis of their confession, although
in North America, a confession usually has to be backed up by some other form of evidence
People who confess to a crime are more likely to be prosecuted and convicted
The goals of a police interrogation
1. gain information that furthers the investigation (the location of evidence)
2. to obtain a confession
Mid-twentieth century whipping was occasionally used to obtain confessions- now replaced
with more subtle, psychologically based interrogation techniques, such as lying about
evidence, promising lenient treatment, and implying threats to loved ones
Depending on where this training is provided, different approaches are taught.
England and Wales are trained to use interrogation techniques that are far less coercive
The Reid Model of Interrogation
The most common interrogation training program offered to North American police officers that
describe the Reid model of interrogation
based on the idea that suspects do not confess to crimes they have committed because
they fear the potential consequences that await them if they do
The Reid model consists of a three-part process.
1. gather evidence related to the crime and to interview witnesses and victims.
2. conduct a nonaccusatorial interview of the suspect to assess any evidence of deception
3. conduct an accusatorial interrogation of the suspect in which a nine-step procedure is
implemented, with the primary objective being to secure a confession
Consists of the following steps:
1. The suspect is immediately confronted with their guilt.
2. Themes are developed that let the suspect to justify, rationalize, or excuse the crime.
3. The interrogator interrupts any statements of denial by the suspect to ensure the
suspect does not get the upper hand in the interrogation.
4. The interrogator overcomes the suspect's objections to the charges to a point at which
the suspect becomes quiet and withdrawn.
5. The interrogator ensures that the suspect does not tune out of the interrogation by
reducing the psychological distance them (by physically moving closer)
6. The interrogator then exhibits sympathy and understandin
7. The suspect is offered face-saving explanations for the crime, which makes self-
incrimination easier to achieve.
8. Once the suspect accepts responsibility (typically by agreeing with one of the face-
saving explanations), the interrogator develops this admission into a full confession.
9. Finally, the interrogator gets the suspect to write and sign a full confession.
other suggestions for how to effectively interrogate suspects include things such as using a
plainly decorated interrogation room to avoid distractions, having the evidence folder in your
hand when beginning the interrogation, and making sure that the suspect is alone in the
interrogation suite prior to the interrogator entering the room
Techniques used in the Reid model of interrogation can be broken down into two general
Minimization techniques: refer to "soft sell" tactics used by police interrogators that are
designed to "lull the suspect into a false sense of security"
include the use of sympathy, excuses, and justifications.
Maximization techniques: refer to "scare tactics" that interrogators often use "to
intimidate a suspect believed to be guilty"
Studies indicate that many of the techniques are used in actual police interrogations, although
the frequency of use varied across techniques.
Almost always used techniques such as isolating suspects from friends and family and
trying to establish rapport with suspects to gain their trust.
Less frequently used techniques included confronting suspects with their guilt and
appealing to their self-interest.
Even less common but sometimes used, were providing justifications for the crime and
implying or pretending to have evidence.
Very rare were instances of threatening the suspect with consequences for not
cooperating and physically intimidating the suspect.
Canadian interrogators do not strictly adhere to the core components of the Reid model but
some of the guidelines were regularly observed.
more confessions were obtained when interrogations used more of the Reid techniques.
Three potential problems with the Reid model of interrogation
The first two relate to the ability of investigators to detect deception and to the biases that
may result when an interrogator believes, perhaps incorrectly, that a suspect is guilty
The third problem has to do with the coercive nature of certain interrogation practices,
Deception detection: Detecting when someone is being deceptive
little research is available to suggest that police officers, or anyone else, can detect
deception with any degree of accuracy- even after receiving specialized training
some recent exceptions to this in Canada, where certain training programs have been
shown to increase lie detection accuracy
procedural safeguards are in place to protect an individual during the transition to the
interrogation phase of the Reid model
only when suspects knowingly and voluntarily waive these rights that their statements
can be used as evidence against them
There types of rights may not provide the protection that they are assumed to provide
because many individuals do not understand their rights
participants had difficulty understanding each of the cautions, particularly certain
elements, but presenting the cautions in written format, one element at a time,
allowed for a greater degree of comprehension.
self-reported confidence was not a good predictor of participant's comprehension
Investigator bias: Bias that can result when police officers enter an interrogation setting
already believing that the suspect is guilty
people unknowingly seek out and interpret information in that situation in a way that
verifies their initial belief.
mock interrogation study, where interrogators were led to believe if suspect was guilty or
innocent- important results were found
1. Interrogators with guilty expectations asked more questions that indicated their
belief in the suspect's guilt.
2. Interrogators with guilty expectations used a higher frequency of interrogation
techniques compared with interrogators with innocent expectations, especially at the
outset of the interrogation.
3. Interrogators with guilty expectations judged more suspects to be guilty, regardless
of whether the suspect was actually guilty.
4. Interrogators indicated that they exerted more pressure on suspects to confess
when, unbeknownst to them, the suspect was innocent.
5. Suspects had fairly accurate perceptions of interrogator behaviour
6. Neutral observers viewed interrogators with guilty expectations as more coercive,
especially against innocent suspects, and they viewed suspects in the guilty
expectation condition as more defensive.
Interrogation Practices and the Courts
Within North America, the key issues a judge must consider when faced with a questionable
confession are whether the confession was made voluntarily and whether the defendant was
competent when he or she provided the confession
A confession is typically excluded if there was overt forms of coercion
elicited by brute force; prolonged isolation; deprivation of food or sleep; threats of harm or
punishment; promises of immunity or leniency; or, barring exceptional circumstances,
without notifying the suspect of his or her constitutional rights"
more subtle forms of psychological coercion are regularly admitted into court, as seen with R.
v. Oickle - but limits are set seen with R. V. Hoilett.
An Alternative to the Reid Model
England and Wales,- use the PEACE model (Planning and preparation, Engage and explain,
Account, Closure, and Evaluation) to guide their interrogations (now called investigative
model provides an inquisitorial framework within which to conduct police interrogations
(compared with the accusatorial framework used in the Reid model)
based on an interview method known as conversation management, which encourages
information gathering more than securing a confession.
some research indicates that a decrease in the use of coercive interrogation tactics does not
necessarily result in a substantial reduction in the number of confessions that can be obtained
Research indicates that when people have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, a false
confession is often to blame.
Retracted confession: An individual declaring that the confession he or she made is false
Disputed confessions: confessions that are disputed at trial, which does not necessarily
mean the confession is false or that it was retracted.
may arise because of legal technicalities, or because the suspect disputes the confession
was ever made
False confession: A confession that is either intentionally fabricated or is not based on actual
knowledge of the facts that form its content
Both are often confused with false confessions:
The major problem is that in most cases it is almost impossible to determine whether a
confession is actually false.
Different Types of False Confessions
Most common typology still appears to be the one proposed by Kassin and Wrightsman which
states that false confessions consist of
1. Voluntary false confessions: when someone voluntarily confesses to a crime he or she
did not commit without any elicitation from the police.
voluntarily false confess for a variety of reasons.
(1) a morbid desire for notoriety,
(2) the person being unable to distinguish fact from fantasy,
(3) the need to make up for pathological feelings of guilt by receiving punishment,
(4) a desire to protect somebody else from harm (particularly prevalent with juveniles).
In some countries, people may be convicted solely on the basis of their confession, although in north america, a confession usually has to be backed up by some other form of evidence. People who confess to a crime are more likely to be prosecuted and convicted. The goals of a police interrogation: gain information that furthers the investigation (the location of evidence, to obtain a confession. Mid-twentieth century whipping was occasionally used to obtain confessions- now replaced with more subtle, psychologically based interrogation techniques, such as lying about evidence, promising lenient treatment, and implying threats to loved ones. Depending on where this training is provided, different approaches are taught. England and wales are trained to use interrogation techniques that are far less coercive. The most common interrogation training program offered to north american police officers that describe the reid model of interrogation.