Suspect Interviews & False Confessions

February 24, 2011
The principle objective of police interviewing is to gather relevant information about the suspected or reported crime. There are two types of interview techniques: the Reid technique, primarily used in the United States; and the PEACE model, primarily used in the United Kingdom. Researchers have expressed concerns regarding the Reid technique due to its guilt-presumptive and confrontational aspects, and thus, recommend the use of the PEACE model. False confessions have been associated with manipulative/coercive interrogation techniques and suspects' vulnerabilities in interviews.

The Reid Technique - United States
  • Focus is on obtaining a confession rather than fact finding (Leo, 2008)
  • Effective in breaking down denial and resistance and eliciting confessions
  • Authors of the Reid technique claim an 80% confession rate but has not been empirically validated
  • Allowed to present false evidence and minimize the offense
  • Two-stage process:
    • Behavioral Analysis Interview: nonaccusatory
    • If the suspect is judged to be lying, the interview progresses to the 9-step accusatory approach: interrogation
      • 3 general phases:
      • custody and isolation
      • confrontation
      • minimization
The PEACE Model - United Kingdom
  • PEACE: preparation and planning, engage and explain, account and clarification, closure, evaluation
  • Used in UK since 1993 and now being used in several other countries (Bull & Soukara, 2010)
  • Focus is on fairness, openness, workability, accountability, and fact finding
  • Not allowed to lie to the suspect or present false evidence (Kassin et. al., 2010)
  • Always electronically recorded
  • Initial phase: planning and preparation for the interview
  • Remaining phases: interview process, its closure, and its evaluation
False Confessions
  • Potential risk factors for false confesssions (Kassin et al., 2010): young age, mental disorders, suggestibility, compliance, and manipulative police techniques
  • Two distinct types of false confessions:
    • Voluntary: result from attention seeking behavior, desire for notariety, protecting the real perpetrator, or underlying psychopathology
    • Police-induced: two types
      • Compliant: interviewee is unable to cope with the interrogative pressures and gives a knowingly false confession to escape the stressful situation
      • Internalized: more psychologically sophisticated and result from subtle manipulation of the interviewee's belief in their guilt
      Police-induced false confessions result from 3 types of error (Leo & Drizin, 2010):
      • misclassification error
      • coercion error
      • contamination error
Gudjonsson, G.H. & Pearse, J. (2011). Suspect interviews and false confessions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 33-37.

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