If you haven’t seen it already, head over to the BPS Research Digest blog where there’s a good summary of some interesting research on false confessions:
[Jessica] Klaver’s team have used an elegant laboratory task to compare two types of interrogation technique and found that it is so-called ‘minimising’ questions and remarks – those that downplay the seriousness of the offence, and which blame other people or circumstances – that are the most likely to lead to a false confession.
Using minimization techniques can be part of the Reid Technique, a popular law enforcement interrogation technique taught widely in the US and Canada which some researchers have argued puts vulnerable individuals at risk of falsely confessing. To be fair, however, the proponents of the Reid Technique do include a chapter on false confessions in the fourth edition of their manual. And I am sure they would debate the ecological validity of the paradigm Klaver et al used.
- Klaver, J.R., Lee, Z. & Rose, V.G. (2008). Effects of personality, interrogation techniques and plausibility in an experimental false confession paradigm. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 13(1), 71-88.