The claim that will be investigated in the present paper is “If someone confesses to a crime, they must definitely have committed that crime.” This topic is both interesting and important for specialists working in the field of psychology and criminology. The issue is compelling because the majority of people agree with the claim. Thus, it will be curious to analyze the evidence and find out whether those agreeing with the claim are right. The topic is highly significant since, in case the claim is inaccurate, the fairness of many individuals’ imprisonment could be doubted.
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Summary of Articles
The articles selected for the analysis were located with the help of search phrases “coercive confession,” “criminal suspect,” and “interrogation technique.” The search was limited in time by the last five years. Also, the methodology “empirical study” was chosen to receive the most relevant results. The articles are trustworthy and reliable since they come from peer-reviewed journals. A detailed analysis of sources is provided below.
The first source under consideration is focused on the role of demeanor in criminal suspects’ evaluation (Douglass, Ray, Hasel, & Donnelly, 2016). There is no indication of the study’s funding, but it is possible to assume that it was promoted by educational establishments in which the authors who conducted experiments work. The publication was peer-reviewed. Additionally, two of four authors performed the function of scientific advisors to the other two. Thus, it is possible to conclude that the study was reviewed at internal and external levels.
In their study, Douglass et al. (2016) conducted two experiments. There were 60 participants in experiment 1 and 147 participants in experiment 2. No data on contributors’ gender or race were offered. What concerns age, it is possible to assume that they were between 18 and 25 years old since it was mentioned that all of them were college and university students. The participants were recruited by their professors in exchange for partial course credit.
In the first experiment, before watching the video, participants read a scenario of a case. There were two versions of the scenario, and it was expected that students’ reactions would be manipulated by the differences in scenarios. The two options were flat and emotional demeanor expectations. Then, participants watched a video and answered the questions “Is the suspect guilty?” and “Should the investigator pursue the suspect?” In the second experiment, students were randomly allocated for reading one of six versions of a court case summary. Then, they answered the question, “Is the suspect guilty?”
Results of the study performed by Douglass et al. (2016) were consistent with the hypothesis. In case when demeanor is manipulated, individuals tend to make a biased judgment against the defendant. The strengths of the study are it its psychological value and emphasis on the role of demeanor in a court judgment. The limitations are the lack of age diversification among the participants. Also, it would be good to know the difference in opinions expressed by males and females.
In the second source, authors analyze the effect of interrogation techniques on jurors’ judgments of coerciveness (Shaked-Shroer, Costanzo, & Berger, 2015). There is no indication of the research’s funding. The study was peer-reviewed due to the requirements of the journal. Shaked-Shroer et al. (2015) arranged four experimental conditions in their research, each of which was aimed at analyzing the respondents’ reaction to corroboration and coercion during judgment.
There were 260 participants in the study: 88 males and 113 females (one person did not disclose). The mean age of stakeholders was 34 years. 79.7% were Caucasian, 6.4% were African American, 5.5% were Asian or Pacific Islanders, 4.5% were Latinos, and 3.9% did not disclose their race (Shaked-Shroer et al., 2015). These individuals were recruited through the online data collection service, Mechanical Turk. The participants were required to read case facts, watch a videotaped interrogation, and read attorneys’ arguments (Shaked-Shroer et al., 2015). Then, they completed a questionnaire, the questions which were roughly divided into two parts:
- “the interrogation and confession”
- “the verdict decision” (Shaked-Shroer et al., 2015, p. 73).
The results of the study were consistent with the hypothesis. Scholars identified that people were apt to change their perception of the interrogation’s coerciveness when the confession led to the revelation of supplementary evidence. The major strength of the study is that its results can be used to instruct jurors about the danger of making a wrong conclusion concerning the suspect’s guilt. The limitation of the study is the lack of the establishment of boundary conditions for coerciveness judgment. Another limitation is the age of the suspect in the case study (18 years old). It would be helpful to investigate people’s responses in case suspects were of different ages.
A Conclusion About the Claim
The analysis of scholarly sources allows concluding that the claim is inaccurate. Not all individuals confessing to a crime have committed it. This answer is supported by research results from both studies. Douglass et al. (2016) prove that suspects’ behavior has a strong impact on jurors irrespective of whether the individual is guilty. Shaked-Shroer et al. (2015) demonstrate that jurors’ opinions depend on the evidence that can be corroborated.
Findings from both articles are likely to hold true because they were published not older than five years ago. Also, the reliability of both articles is reinforced by the sufficient number of participants and the use of random sampling. The articles could help to understand a certain group of people better. This population comprises suspects. It is not expected that results would have been different for various genders or races. In general, all suspects might be understood better with the help of these two studies.
Douglass, A. B., Ray, J. L., Hasel, L. E., & Donnelly, K. (2016). Does it matter how you deny it?: The role of demeanor in evaluations of criminal suspects. Legal and Criminal Psychology, 21(1), 141-160.
Shaked-Shroer, N., Costanzo, M., & Berger, D. E. (2015). Overlooking coerciveness: The impact of interrogation techniques and guilt corroboration on jurors’ judgments of coerciveness. Legal and Criminal Psychology, 20(1), 68-80.