Contextual factors predict self-reported confession decision-making: A field study of suspects’ actual police interrogation experiences.
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AbstractThis study examined incarcerated persons’ self-reported interrogation experiences and confession decision-making by investigating which sociodemographic, criminological, and contextual factors were associated with their decisions to deny the allegations, partially admit wrongdoing, or fully confess to the crime. We expected that respondents in this field study would report a wide range of interrogation experiences. Given mixed prior findings, we did not formulate hypotheses for sociodemographic or criminological factors, but based on contextual variable research, we predicted that suspects who perceived the evidence against them as strong and who had already decided to confess prior to their interrogation would be more likely to confess. Participants were 249 individuals (86% male; M age = 34.8 years; 49% Black, 41% White, 10% other racial identities) incarcerated in local jails in the United States who completed a questionnaire about their most recent interrogation. Respondents described their interrogation experiences (e.g., location, duration, custody), perceptions of police evidence against them, and thoughts about confession prior to the interrogation. We examined group differences according to confession decision and used multinomial logistic regression to examine how sociodemographic, criminological, and contextual factors relate to suspects’ self-reported confession decisions. Results: Suspects’ interrogation experiences varied considerably, as did their perceptions of custody, beliefs about incriminating evidence, and preinterrogation intent to confess or deny. Sociodemographic characteristics and criminological factors were unrelated to self-reported confession decision-making, but several contextual factors predicted confession outcome. Signing away one’s Miranda rights and already planning to confess predicted suspects’ self-reported confessions, whereas being physically restrained, believing that police had no evidence of one’s guilt, and intending in advance to deny the allegations predicted suspects’ self-reported denials. Suspects who were undecided about confession prior to interrogation were about as likely to eventually confess as deny. Most suspects followed through with their initial intention to confess or deny, and suspects’ perceptions about evidence predicted their self-reported confession. These findings complement existing work focused on interrogation techniques and inform both police interrogation training and practice.
CitationCleary, H. and Bull, R. (2021). 'Contextual factors predict self-reported confession decision-making: A field study of suspects’ actual police interrogation experiences'. Law and Human Behavior, 45(4), pp, 1-14.
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association (APA)
JournalLaw and Human Behavior