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The Science Behind False Confessions: Police Brutality Not Required

When people think of false, forced, or coerced confessions, the images that come to mind are of criminal defendants being tortured and brutalized by police as part of an interrogation technique to get criminals to fess up to a crime. The U.S. criminal justice system has protections in place to ensure that police are deterred and punished for any type of police misconduct that leads to a forced or coerced confessions as a result of harsh or brutal interrogation strategies, such as keeping the criminal defendant awake for days or beating the defendant until submission. However, what the criminal justice system does not anticipate is for a forced or false confession to be a by-product of mental manipulation, which has been found to be extremely effective at convincing an innocent person that he or she has committed a crime.

Study Surrounding False Confessions

In a study performed by two psychologists at the University of Bedfordshire and University of British Columbia and published in several psychological science journals, it was found that specific manipulations and psychological techniques could lead to the creation of new memories of crimes that never occurred and could lead to false confessions. Of the people who were interviewed using these techniques, 70 percent of the participants created emotional, false memories of committing violent crimes such as theft, assault, and assault with a weapon, and believed that they had committed one of these crimes as an early adolescent.

How the Experiment Works?

Dr. Julia Shaw, one of the investigators, first investigated a bit into the backgrounds of the participants of the experiment, getting a few, true facts about the participant such as the participant’s best friend, hometown, and the like from parents. Then in a 45-minute interview with the participant, Shaw asked the participants about a true experience that the participant had actually experienced and then gave them details about an experience that never happened but of which she had convinced the participants. After a few hours with the participants, the majority of the participants recreated the truth that Shaw had given to them, using factual descriptions and tidbits to create a comprehensive and detailed account of a criminal history.

The Fusion of True Facts With Fiction

The process of the experiment is fascinating: when a person believes something to be true, then he or she is able to use external and internal experiences to patch together and visualize the story; the story is then internalized and it becomes impossible to determine what is true and what is false.

Even after the experimenter told the participant about the falsehood of the crime, the participant insisted that the event had actually taken place.

The Ramifications of This Experiment on Criminal Interviews

This type of simple manipulation can have significant effects on the criminal interrogation and criminal justice procedure, especially in the way that criminal suspects, witnesses, and victims are interviewed after a criminal act has taken place. Though criminal interrogations are generally required to be recorded either through audio or video recordings to ensure there is no police misconduct, the experiment helps by identifying which types of interrogation methods should be left out of the interviewing room, and when and how they have been used in the past.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

False confessions and inappropriate police interrogation techniques happen often. It is important that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik to advocate on your behalf and ensure that police are acting in good faith. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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