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1st Slide

Social Psychology and the Legal System

How much faith do you put in the justice system? Most people would claim a dose of
healthy cynicism towards the legal process and, in particular, solicitors, but in the
population as a whole, a lot of that seems to be just bravado. Jacqueline Wheatcroft – a
forensic psychologist from the University of Liverpool – has been researching the
psychology of the courtroom for over a decade. In one of her studies, which familiarised
members of the general public with cross examinations, the focus groups’ feedback was
eyebrow-raising. “They just did not believe that the barrister would try to manipulate or
trick them into saying things that were wrong.”

You may scoff at that, but it’s a serious problem. For all the solemn imagery that the
scales of justice and gavel conjure in our mind – that of unbiased, dispassionate justice
– there are plenty of known problems with the courtroom. So many, in fact, that it’s
difficult to know where to start, until you narrow it down to the common factor that all of
the issues have in common: people.

How people’s perceptions, misperceptions, and cognitive biases can affect criminal
investigations and court room outcomes?

*Studying the legal system helps psychologist s see how behaviour occurs in a
complex. Personally relevant, and emotion laden-contests.

2nd Slide & 3rd Slide

We humans, packed with our own years of experience and internal biases, are
extremely unreliable. We’re also, as it turns out, worryingly easily swayed, and often
less by cold, hard facts than what conveniently fits our understanding of the world
around us. Acknowledging this isn’t a way of criticising the integrity of individuals, it’s
about putting the justice system beyond reproach.

The legal community understands the importance social psychological factors play --
Many law schools require their students take courses on it

Social Psychology has examined many areas of legal/social significance:

 Accuracy and Persuasiveness of Eyewitness Testimony
 Criminal investigation interview techniques
 Factors which can affect Police line-ups
 Jurors ability to follow judges instructions
 Defendant Characteristics
 Jury size

6 weeks later.72 % voted to convict ! A third group heard the c. one of which was the assailant. However. self-assured witness’s testimony is given more credibility. Despite the eyewitness being attacked . the defense needs to both discredit that eyewitness and be able to produce their own eyewitness. 60 % of the students identified the wrong individual. of a witness. And the eyewitness. People’s memory can often be influenced after the fact . there is only a small positive correlation between self-confidence and accuracy of report. 1987) If the prosecution produces an eyewitness.Eyewitness Testimony Lab studies have shown that eyewitness testimony can be crucial in criminal cases. Constructed a hypothetical homicide-burglary scenario: One group of "jurors" heard only circumstantial evidence which linked the defendant to the crime --- 18% voted to convict A second group heard the circumstantial evidence and the corroboration of 1 eyewitness --. in order to minimize the damage to the defendant. Example: Elizabeth Loftus -. 68% still voted to convict ! The bottom line is that criminal cases where an eyewitness is produced is more likely to result in a conviction (Visher. you were a 1/4 mile away from the defendant). the students were shown photographs of six males. Eyewitness Accuracy Buckhout (1974) --. e. Large scale analysis of eyewitness accuracy indicates that eyewitnessess are only about 80% accurate under good circumstances. it was dark.Staged a physical-assault on a professor in front of about 140 students at California State University. Juror’s often focus on the mannerisms. but the eyewitness was discredited (Your blind. so more confident.preeminent researcher of eyewitness testimony and repressed memories.

Fisher et.this can lead to confirmation bias. accurate or not. Later. police will ask questions which are based on their own pre-existing understanding of the facts -. helping their witnesses seem more self-confident and assured. Moreover.The Misinformation Effect: Questions asked can often contribute to the distortion of a memory. The second group saw the car parked in front of a yield sign. the students who were wrong were adamant in their belief that the car was at a yield sign ! Retelling an event can solidify memories. students were asked : Did you see a green car pass in front of the red car while it was at the ( stop or yield) sign ? Students who saw the "Stop" slide and were asked the question with the word "stop sign" were 75% correct when asked: Was the car in front of a stop sign ? Students who saw the "Stop" slide and were asked the question with the word "yield sign" were only 41% correct when asked. . The Misinformation Effect : (remembering wrong information) This experiment helps to demonstrate how question wording can affect a persons memory for an event. researchers have developed a "cognitive interview technique" for police to use which can help gather more information than "traditional interview" techniques. One group saw the car parked in front of a stop sign. (1987) developed an interview technique which produced 50% more information when used by actual police officers. Loftus (1978) : Had students view slides of a traffic accident. Traditionally. Attorneys often have their witnesses go over events repeatedly before trial. Police interview techniques: Because the type of questions asked can influence a witnesses subsequent memory for an event. Al.

Fisher’s Guidelines for police interview techniques: 1. . Misidentification can also be reduced by including instructions that state "the suspect may not be in this lineup. so you are under no pressure to pick out an individual from this lineup" Because of psychological factors which affect peoples memories. Prompt them to remember what they were thinking and feeling at the time (mood congruency) 2. 1988) How a person looks for a suspect can lead to misidentification: Witnesses who analytically compare mugshots are less accurate than witnesses who look for a face to just "pop" out of a lineup or photographs. After their complete retelling. rather then showing them all suspects at once. have them recreate the setting. Eyewitness misidentification can be reduced by having people make "yes/no" judgements to a series of suspects one at a time. Allow people to tell their story uninterrupted. and visualize the scene. showing pictures if necessary. Having people look at numerous mugshots can reduce accuracy in later identifying a suspect. then attempt to jog their memory with open-ended questions which do not reveal any additional information which the police may know. Social Psychologists are often called on as expert witnesses to help educate juries: Social Psychologists often testify how:  Eyewitnesses often perceive events selectively  Discussion of events after they happen can affect subsequent memory of that event.  Research using staged crimes indicate the fallibility of eyewitnesses  Eyewitnesses are especially prone to error when trying to identify someone of another race. if the culprit is not in the lineup him/herself. (Brigham & Cairns. First. Minimizing False Lineup identifications: Expectations can affect police lineups People often will choose a person who is similar to the actual culprit.

.Found that students judged "baby-faced" adults as being more naive and rated them not-guilty of intentional criminal acts more often than "mature-faced" adults Downs & Lyons (1991) -. Berry & McArthur (1988) -. (Sweeny & Haney. they are more likely to let the personality traits of the defendant influence their decisions. Although jurors do not ignore the "facts" of a case when deliberating. Defendant’s Characteristics Researcher’s have studied how physical attractiveness and similarity to the juror’s of a defendant can affect the outcome of a trial. fraud) (Mazzella & Feingold. Political Beliefs (Amoto. A strong negative correlation was found between the physical attractiveness and the amount of money the person was fined. 1986) Expectations of stereotypical behavior: Mock jurors punished white defendants more severely for white-collar crimes (embezzlement. Similarity of the defendant to the jury.Had police escorts rate the physical attractiveness of defendants in over 1500 misdemeanor cases in Texas and then correlated the physical attractiveness with the monetary fines given by the judge. when the evidence is ambiguous or lacking. 1994) Mock jurors punished African-American defendants more harshly for violent crimes. 1979) Same Language (Stephan & Stephan.  Experiments have shown that this information can cause juror’s to analyze eyewitness testimony with more skepticism and discuss eyewitness testimony more fully during deliberations. That eyewitness confidence in not a good indication of eyewitness accuracy. 1992). Researchers give different mock juries the same facts concerning a case and manipulate physical attractiveness and/or similarity of the defendant to the jurors.

Pre-trial publicity can also affect the jury. the understanding of the jury with respect to certain legal terms can be quite different from the judges and/or lawyers understanding. (Hart. studies have shown that jurors are often unable to ignore or repress the forbidden testimony. (1990) Exposed 800 mock jurors to pre-trial publicity damaging to the defendant (past criminal history) After jurors saw the videotape of the trial. jurors who will not support capital punishment are excluded. Certain studies have shown that even a judges nonverbal behaviors can be picked up on by juries. Kramer et. Death Qualified Jurors: In capital punishment cases. Attitude surveys of people who do not oppose the death penalty . and judges instructions to potential juries to ignore everything they had seen on TV and in print have little impact. The same proportion of jurors voted to convict in both instructional groups. However. Smith (1991): showed that pretrial training sessions for jurors can make the jury more receptive and understanding of both the judges instructions to them and the precise comprehension of rules of evidence and testimony. a judge will instruct jurors to ignore a piece of evidence of information during the course of a trial. which state the discussion of a rape victims prior sexual history is not admissible.Despite the cognitive biases of jurors. 1995) Juries and Justice Jury comprehension: Due to the intricacies of the legal system. they either heard the judges instructions to ignore the pre-trial publicity or heard no additional instructions. al. and the fact the judge tells them to ignore it may make it even more salient. This has lead to "rape-shield" laws. when the evidence is clear and the jury focuses on that evidence. these biases will have minimal impact on the outcome of a trial The Judges Influence in the courtroom Very often.

and less chance of minority influence to reverse the predominant viewpoint of the jury Slide 5 Serving as a consultant to the court is a relatively new role for the psychologist. A consultant's role is advisory and collaborative. Civil pre-trial procedures In civil pretrial procedures. and (d) set a time for an issue conference if necessary to settle on "stipulations" (undisputed facts or points of law).g. forensics has been considered the area of psychiatric expertise. Before the date of the court hearing. Then it ends when the defendant is served with the summons. (b) to set a timeframe for concluding all pretrial activities. and the damages or relief asked for. Services of a forensic psychologist may be requested at any of the three stages in the judicial process 1. Traditionally. In general terms. the less deliberation. and less diversity. and 3. show that they have more interest in crime control than due process of law which might favor criminals. the legal basis (e. and sends back to the court an answer to contest the allegations. Pre-Trial Process Pretrial procedures in both civil and criminal cases vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. negligence). it's any of the activities that take place prior to the trial hearing. Then both parties await a date set for court hearing. sometimes there might be pretrial conferences (usually between the judge and the lawyers) such as early conference. mainly (a) to help the judge manage the case. Trial. The complaint states the plaintiff's version of the facts. For example. so the court may refer or require a third party to reach a settlement in that before the court hearing date. Post-trial. it starts from the plaintiff/petitioner filing a complaintin the proper court against the defendant/respondent. 6 or 12 people on a jury? The less people who are on a jury. That's the general picture in a nutshell. (c) review evidence and clarify issues. Pre-trial 2. the pretrial procedure may include an arbitration or mediation programme. breach of contract. acknowledges receipt of it. In some cases. consultants have no line power of administrative authority over those with whom they are requested or assigned to work. divorce cases often involve disputes over child custody. Criminal pretrial procedures .

g. resulting in either release or below. . . Criminal act takes place. It's not because it's already one of many court appearances. Arrest of suspect. then await initial court appearance (below).g. For any minor offence that needs to move forward. It results in either charges dropped ("case dismissed") or the case moves forward to the next stage (preliminary court hearing). resulting in release or below.k. Preliminary sequence of events: . the criminal procedures of all countries are a mess. a. those are then lumped along with other intermediate or hybrid offences for the main higher court to handle (i.e. Booking at police station. . The initial court appearance tends to be the default court to try minor statutory offences (e. The initial court appearance is mainly to sort cases according to minor.a. not the preliminary court hearing). traffic violations). to be honest. The end of the preliminary court hearing is generally taken to mean the end of the criminal pretrial procedures. and the steps are not necessarily equivalent between jurisdictions.Not to put too fine a point on things. The whole criminal procedure is easier to see in action than to describe. Criminal pretrial procedures vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. intermediate. Initial court appearance The initial court appearance of the suspect is arguably both the start of the pretrial procedure and the end of it. resulting in unsolved case or below. It's pretrial because it's before the main trial. Typically it takes places without jury in a magistrate's court (magistracy. so the following is in very broad terms. indictable offence in UK vs. felony in USA). . hybrid and serious offences (the classification of them varies between jurisdictions). Crime report to the police. "police court"). Prosecution of suspect. . The main reason boils down to the different hierarchies of criminal offences between countries (e. Police investigation. .

and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. and c) the constitutional implications as a result of showup identification. Haynes. A typical evaluation would involve gathering an extensive background history. 2. culture. explicit. Key people in the Treatment services in some cases (Drug Abuse) Slide 6 Gathering Evidences Psychologists are actively engaged in and committed to evidence-based practice. Showup identifications through the following: a) the inherently suggestive nature of showup procedures. This definition is an adaptation of the classic evidence-based medicine definition provided by Sackett (Sackett. Diagnostic appraisal or making evaluations of defendants to determine competency to stand trial. 1996) that has been widely used and paraphrased since its inception: “Evidence-based practice is the conscientious. which is compared to victim and witness statements. Gray. and preferences. 4. Placing a suspect at the scene of the crime shortly after its commission further sets up the suspect in a suggestion of guilt. Psychologists may provide expert opinions regarding an individual's competency to be a witness 5.” . including information about mental health and substance abuse problems the defendant may be experiencing.What is the role of Psychologist in the Pre-Trial Process 1. The forensic psychologist supplements these data with the results of an extensive battery of psychological tests. his need for treatment and risk to the community. & Richardson. The final product is a comprehensive psychological evaluation. In addition to the methods of the showup procedure. the location further intensifies the intrinsic suggestiveness of the procedure. Evidence-based practice in psychology (EBPP) is the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics. 3. which are compared to normative data on other criminals and persons of the same age and gender. A forensic psychologist conducts pre-trial or pre-release psychological evaluations of defendants. Rosenberg. b) the psychological effect of eyewitness identifications on the jury.

Parkes. & Milne. and preferences. initiate a refined search. & Haynes.” — Marsha Rabiteau EYEWITNESS IDENTIFICATION RESEARCH A social scientist described a notable—and rare—success story in which a psychological insight led to substantial change in the operation of the legal system—in this case. 2008. & Cook. Scientific Research in the Context of the Legal System “The cross-examination process is the tool that we utilize in the courtroom along with the advocacy of lawyers. and they can be supplemented by articles. McGowan. books. 2005. Rennie. The insight grew out of eyewitness identification research that began in the 1970s. (2) Search the literature to find the best available evidence. there may be some recent initiatives from the world of library science that may be additionally helpful in locating evidence to answer questions.Practicing psychologists are often faced with questions on a regular basis. extensive psychological research with eyewitness identification had begun to expose the weaknesses of the technique. As long as 25 years ago. A recent search of PsycINFo located many articles about psychologists adopting evidence-based practices. chapters. 2008. culture. but here they are placed within the context of evidence-based practice (EBP). and websites in quickly and efficiently locating relevant and useful evidence for either research or practice (Eady. Straus. of which this paper will concentrate on the first two: (1) Formulate a clear question about patient or research issue. 2001. Deeks. . & Haynes. Glasziou. Psychologists attempted without success to convince the justice system of the unreliability of the technique through the 1980s and early 1990s. Hamilton. for which evidence might exist to answer them. however. The problem was that the identification of guilty parties by eyewitnesses had great credibility in the courtroom even though the error rate of mistaken identification was high.. integrating them with clinical expertise and patient’s characteristics. Many of the techniques outlined will already be familiar. Weinfeld & Finkelstein. and (5) Evaluate the outcomes and if needed. Wilczynski. (3) Critically appraise the evidence for its validity. but which may not be easily accessible. So although psychologists undergo extensive training in research methods. but very few about the skills and steps needed to search for evidence. What I think is missing from some scientific research that’s done for purposes of litigation is the opportunity for there to be a true peer review process. police lineup procedures. (4) Apply useful findings. McKibbon & Wilczynski. The evidence-based process has been well-documented (Guyatt. Wyer et al. Meade. 2008. 2005. Formulate a clear question about patient or problem. 2009). 2004) and involves the following steps. 2005. Richardson. accuracy and usefulness. Hyde.

Psychologists found that witnesses tended to point to the person in the lineup who looked most like the perpetrator relative to the other people in the lineup— but who was not necessarily the perpetrator. ordered the National Institute of Justice to develop the first set of national guidelines on eyewitness evidence and to include the substantial body of findings regarding eyewitness evidence produced by research psychologists. is the provenance of the evidence appropriate: Is the organization or the person who did the research trustworthy? In what context was it issued? The moderator went on to say that experts bringing evidence to trials may gather their information in two ways. (2) they had publicized that evidence in leading. the accuracy rate rose significantly. in which witnesses were shown a single pic-ture at a time without knowing whether they would see any more. however. The second is “after-the-fact” science in which actual experiments or other research is done to answer a question in the context of particular litigation (such as the breast implant controversy). where the literature in the field is surveyed and presented by the expert. Attorney General Janet Reno. suggested that courts may ask several questions about research whose results are used to influence court proceedings. The social scientist listed several factors that finally led to change: (1) the scientists had clear experimental evidence. Psychologists tried explaining it directly to the police. Criminal justice researchers were able to show that 84 percent of these mistaken convic-tions were based on eyewitness evidence. The first is “before-the-fact” science. learned which policy makers could effect change. RESEARCH DESIGNED TO INFLUENCE COURT PROCEEDINGS The session moderator. peer-reviewed psychology journals. judgment. and lobbied those policy makers for change. By using a sequential system. In 1997. Because someone in a lineup always looks more like the perpetrator than the other people in the lineup. It soon became apparent that DNA evidence had the capacity not only to convict but to exonerate those convicted mistakenly. a scientist. They made a relative. testifying as expert witnesses in court. First. does the content of the research meet the standards for scientific evidence discussed in Daubert? Second. and talking to the media. the court system resisted any changes. After-the-fact science has several virtues. having seen this evidence. not an absolute. witnesses tend to choose that person rather than choosing no one. But general change did not begin until DNA testing arrived in the 1990s. It is relatively . This set in motion the substantial change that has now taken place. and (3) they developed their own policy recommendations based on evidence. Even after this finding had been established.

This includes being punctual and arranging to arrive at the Court in good time. Psychologists should make reasonable efforts to plan ahead concerning Court attendance. 4. Slide 7 Events During Trial 1. Psychologists should. i. say. and it is highly focused. Psychologists are always expected to provide truthful testimony.frugal. being appropriately dressed and conducting themselves appropriately towards the Court. because the goal is clear and specific. Psychologists should always act in such a way as to maintain the repute of the profession when working as an expert or professional witness. The instructing party should be asked on what day exactly it is anticipated the psychologist will start giving evidence and . wherever possible. logging the time each witness goes into and leaves the witness box. Where relevant psychologists should decide in advance if they will take an oath or affirmation. or for new documentation to be submitted for consideration. Where appropriate witness summons may be issued with a broad time frame covering multiple dates. both in the process of voir dire and in the trial or hearing itself. It is also not unusual for ad-hoc professional meetings or meetings between counsel to be arranged immediately prior to the delivery of evidence. sit in the Court to listen to what is being said and to prepare themselves further to give evidence and to prepare for cross-examination on issues raised by preceding witnesses. Psychologists acting as expert or professional witnesses may be asked to attend Court on a ‘just in case’ basis. 2. In Court proceedings the Court Clerk keeps a note of the progress of the trial. 3. 5. It is the case that expert and professional witnesses are generally permitted to sit in Court whilst other experts are giving evidence. It is important that psychologists make a point of liaising with the Court Clerk to ensure that the clerk will be in a position to provide the necessary evidence to justify a claim for a prolonged period of waiting. well ahead of the expected time that the expert actually gives evidence. The fundamental issue is your role in assisting the Court. Psychologists should where possible be accommodating and helpful to the Court. Only the Court Clerk is able to endorse a later explanation by an expert that an extended period of waiting to give evidence was incurred by. an unanticipated prolongation of voir dire submissions or evidence by a preceding witness taking up much more time in cross-examination and re-examination. Arriving early may assist with this.e. colleagues and all other participants. so that the scientist can design the research to answer a specific question.

Science and technology have become elements in which the scope of law is interested in. The psychology of the court therefore. the work of expert witness is attributed to scientists whose expertise shall abet court decisions on the matter. 6. It is the forensic psychologist that is qualified to measure the truth and lies/ mental capacity to stand a trial/ and difficult cases that require scientific methods. Often a psychologist will be asked about availability in advance and requested to reserve dates in the diary. Psychologists are expected to preparing adequately for a Court appearance and the provision of oral evidence. the use of science and technology in the work of court is common. use of DNA tests to know the offender or use of eye witness and forensic testimonies in Court. forensic psychologist is best placed to be deployed in various needs for the court. Some criminals may need rehabilitation and treatment other than punishment. explains areas that cover the mind. The advancement in criminal and civil procedures take into account factors that go beyond the limits of law. In this case. It is also in this sense that the court can reconstruct the genesis and causality of a criminal offence. . Justice cannot ignore human behaviour in determining its outcome in the most accurate way possible. Today. Lawyers and judges are not trained in forensic psychology and their main point of reference is the law other than psychology. Cases involving certain use of violence against persons. It is also in the interest of social psychology that certain crimes shall be tamed or deterred other than applying punitive regulations. Psychology of the Court shall explore the right language of law and court for forensic psychologists. memory and will. But the forensic psychology shall only abet the outcome of the trial but it is not binding. and conducting forensic investigations will definitely require science and technology. Neither is the court bound by the expert testimony. For instance. Psychology gets into the nature of certain behaviour and is prepared to reconstruct facts using scientific and empirical methods. The law does not cover repetition of certain crimes by individuals but deals with behaviour in terms of regulations. It is the power of the court or judge to assign one to perform some expert investigations and come up with scientific report on a particular offence. how long it is likely to take. The court does not have scientific preparations to measure the truth or establish corrective justice. The study shall demonstrate the importance in psychological discoveries in the administration of justice. science and technology are emerging as a new genre of legal knowledge for practitioners and scholars. Slide 8 Social Psychology in the Court Room: Perceptions of Justice Law. For example. It is in this manner law considers the importance of using scientific methods in order to arrive at informed decisions. Courts can be very accommodating to experts and will often build a witnesses timetable around the expert’s availability.

Social psychology is the application of psychological theory to legal processes. This relatively wide subfield applies research and theory from many areas of psychology to a wide variety of . It is most effective when both psychologists and legal representatives (such as lawyers. Social Psychology is the application of psychological theory to legal processes.) trust reliability and validity. jurors. Application Social Psychology 1. etc.

The practice of law is based on advocacy. It was data more typical of sociology than psychology. For example. the psychologist (Hugo Münsterberg) was trying to push psychology’s big ideas through a very small door of legal acceptance. the relationship between psychology and the law is sometimes both intimate and contentious. Brandeis argued from a social science perspective that excessive work hours produced negative social consequences such as infant mortality and children harmed by neglect. He was unsuccessful. Consequently. Psychology and lawyers have similar goals that include gathering evidence that is both reliable and valid. Louis Brandeis. When psychologist Hugo Münsterberg published his book On the Witness Stand (1908). 2. Six categories of application are shown in Table X. In these first two examples. Several case studies in the history of law can be used to see how the application of psychology to law evolved over time. Oregon (see Woloch. you are probably more prepared than you realize to start down a path of conducting particular kinds of assessments and program evaluation. psychology determines what is right by virtue of empirical observations. But the relationship between them can become contentious because their professional cultures often are in conflict. Hugo Münsterberg. psychology gets to choose what it studies.” One reviewer gave it a “savagely. That probably was because a future Supreme Court justice. However. understood irrational human psychology better than Hugo Münsterberg understood the law. the practice of psychology requires objectivity. p. both want the best for their clients and both have some interest in promoting social justice. as with many partnerships. the book was not well received by fellow psychologists. 1996) involved a woman working long hours in a laundry factory. Different Philosophies: Advocacy Versus Objectivity Law generally determines what is right by virtue of precedent. training experiences. The next occurrence was more promising. It is intimate because law and psychology seem to be working on the same important social problem: individual and social self-regulation (see Goldstein. 2) described the book’s “icy reception from legal scholars. and professional values of lawyers and psychologists simply will not easily fit together. Some of these categories fit easily with standard training in psychology. . he was hoping to influence the legal system to accept evidence from psychology in the same way it accepted evidence from other branches of science. But the lawyer (Louis Brandeis) was trying to pull something relatively small (some social science data) through that same small door. trying to fit psychology into law has often been difficult – and this tension between psychology and law has been present from their first interactions. Many of the attitudes. Brandeis cited social science as he argued in favor of improving wages and limiting the workday to 10 hours. He was much more effective – and his success created opportunities for others. satirical critique” for Münsterberg’s “exaggerated claims for psychology.” Even worse. 1968). but it was a start. or prior authority. So it seems as if there ought to be some degree of meaningful overlap – and there is. The case of Muller v. He was ineffective – maybe even counterproductive. Louis Brandeis.contexts. Costanzo and Krauss (2015. the points of contention are also fundamental to each discipline. In addition. However. The relationship between psychology and the law got off to a shaky start. Law can only react to and process ongoing events. His data were specific and limited.

An accused person. The Social Psychology of False Confessions Kelly Michaels. “Peculiar” was how Costanzo and Krauss summarized many of the motives for these voluntary false confessions. voluntary confessions are given for a reason that is typically known only to the person confessing. “I was absolutely terrified because you were completely defenseless . voluntary confessions. 1993) and the various psychological reasons why someone might admit to doing something they never really did.’” She probably could have received a shorter sentence if she had been willing to plead guilty. Coerced Confessions. Wrightsman & Kassin. and (c) the judge has instructed jurors to disregard the confession (Kassin & Sukel. A parent might “take the fall” to protect a child from harm. One example of a modern application of psychology to law is in research on false confessions. authentic confessions occur when the person honestly believes they committed the crime in question – even when they didn’t. The alternative is to roll the dice and hope that a jury finds you not guilty. In fact. Wrightsman & Kassin. The serial killer Henry Lee Lucas falsely confessed to several murders that he did not commit in an effort to secure his name and reputation as among the elite killers of all time. 1997. In the United States. & Fortune. 1993. & Saunders. Costanzo and Krauss (2015) provided several examples of purposeful. he was simply telling his interrogators wanted he believed they wanted him to say. 1990). Clifton Lawson admitted to a brutal murder on camera and gave details that could only be known by someone who had been there (Kassin & Wrightsman. Voluntary Confessions. . Williams.” Jurors tend to accept confessions as authentic even when the confessions (a) have been discredited. In that case. the instrumental. whether innocent or guilty. In contrast with instrumental confessions. An instrumental confession means that the person has a reason for confessing. when people report doing something they didn’t really do (see Kassin. But there are reasonable alternative explanations. But Lawson had a very low IQ and was anxious. It is easy to assume that any confession – even by torture – is an admission of guilt. Kassin & Wrightsman. 1994). a typology by Costanzo and Krauss (2015) identifies four different reasons people might give false confessions. A Confession Does Not Equal Guilt. Instrumental. Someone seeking notoriety might confess to gain attention. told Oprah Winfrey. McCormick. Instrumental. . ‘I am innocent. This situation persisted until Brown v. For example. you can’t do anything except say the words. Authentic. 1998. you’re being attacked. p. There is now a rich psychological research literature about false confessions. Instrumental. instrumental coerced confessions arguably have become the most contentious issue that the American Psychological Association has faced in several decades. the Supreme Court ruled that a trial “is a mere pretense” if a conviction has been “obtained by violence. (b) are ruled inadmissible. Costanzo and Krauss (2015. 1992. Kassin. 1997. you’re being accused. It’s not difficult to understand why a person being tortured would confess – they want the torture to stop! And that’s why torture is not an effective technique for getting information. For example. from the chapter’s opening. 39) organized the literature about false confessions into the four situations summarized in Table X. Wrightsman. can plead guilty to a lesser crime than the one they are charged with and receive a lighter sentence. many trials involved Black defendants who had confessed – but only after being beaten (Kassin. Mississippi started to alter the legal landscape. In criminal cases. 1985. 1997. And the details of the . A coerced confession means that it is forced. coerced confession is most common. Coerced False Confessions. 2012).3. Neitzel.

probabilities. but whether or not they believed that they had witnessed seeing a stop sign. The Social Psychology of Eyewitness Testimony If you are ever a juror on a case with an eyewitness. 4. The misinformation effect occurs when exposure to false information or leading questions about an event leads to errors in recall of the original event. Loftus & Zanni. they are constructed as needed at the time we’re asked to use them – and they are subject to bias. The experimenters then asked participants a series of questions about the accident and found that the participants’ confidence in their observations was influenced by tiny details. but rather the answers to other questions asked some time afterward. the participants could infer that there was a broken headlight – and if they had been paying attention. Voluntary False Confessions. This confession can be considered coerced because it never would have happened if Lawson had been treated more fairly and with more respect. He barely avoided conviction and seemed confused about whether he had actually committed the crime. In reality. The crash itself lasted only four seconds. suffering from a delusion. For example. She had participants view a one- minute film of a multi-car accident and then write out a brief description of what they had just witnessed. Six people confessed to stealing it before he discovered it in his own vehicle. p. everyone was asked whether they . listening to the officers as they discussed the case. Another application of psychology to law is research on eyewitness testimony and the misinformation effect. The problem is that memory is malleable – and that means that it can be manipulated. Someone really believes that he or she committed a crime and confesses to something that he or she did not do. the idea that memories are not just sitting in our heads. “Did you see a broken headlight?” and other participants. The Nazi leader had lost his favorite pipe during a tour of a concentration camp. “Did you see the broken headlight?” The word “the” in the second version is a presupposition. and wishes (Loftus. 562) focused on leading questions by emphasizing that. For example. they should say “yes” to this question). which occurs when memories are changed based on exposure to post-event incorrect information or leading questions. you need to be extremely cautious. 1975). Loftus (1975) demonstrated how easily memories could be pushed around by small influences in how a question was worded. early on in the survey participants received.” For example. wording that assumes something (here. Instead. the survey asked some participants. These cases generally involve someone with mental illness or severe psychological pressure. Authentic. 1975.murder? He had learned them during the long hours sitting in the police station. stereotypes. there was not a broken headlight – but participants who received the presupposition version of the question were significantly more likely to say “yes.” In other versions of this experiment. ready to be accessed like computer files. Loftus asked people either: (1) How fast was Car A going when it ran the stop sign? (2) How fast was Car A going when it turned right? The critical question was not how fast the car was going. The (unverified) story of Himmler’s missing pipe suggests that innocent people being punished may come to believe that they must have done something wrong. Most research on how eyewitnesses fall victim to the misinformation effect is based on the construction hypothesis. Loftus (1975. Loftus changed the way the questions were worded changed participants’ memories. “Our concern is not on the effect of the wording of a question on its answer. Later in the survey.

broken glass seemed plausible as a result of a car accident. They were probably being honest when they remembered what they thought they saw. These participants. the social psychology influences the jury decision making. only 35% of people who had been asked about the car turning right reported seeing a stop sign. They showed people a car accident and then asked half of the participants each of these questions: (1) About how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other? (2) About how fast were the cars going when they bumped into each other? As you would expect. everyone was asked whether they had witnessed broken glass. The most famous version of this experiment was included in a 1974 report by Loftus and Palmer. the word “smashed” elicited higher speed estimates. In contrast. as social psychologists assert the process of jury decision-making is one that is significantly affected by the social interactions of the jury with either themselves or the society. Even though there had not been any broken glass. Importantly. Nonetheless. In a way.saw a stop sign. had constructed plausible memories and then convinced themselves that they were telling “the truth. the whole truth. 55% now said yes. . no stop sign existed in the actual event – but when people had been subtly introduced to the idea of a stop sign in an earlier question. and nothing but the truth. or even from their own family members who ask about what happened. Social psychology plays a role in the justice system. Consider the implications of this research on how real-life eyewitnesses might change their memories based on questions they receive from the police. The participants in these studies had their memories manipulated by researchers asking leading questions – and the “eyewitnesses” had no idea that their memories had been altered. The jury selection entails a very rigorous process of selecting persons of utmost integrity and irrevocable rationale for rendering independent and sober determinations. they had seen a stop sign.” But they were wrong. from lawyers. especially one with “smashing” cars – so people who had received that question a week earlier were now more likely to invent a memory of broken glass. acting as witnesses. People now remembered false things about what they had witnessed simply because of the process of being asked leading questions. But the more interesting finding was that one week later.