Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

In This Article False and Coerced Confessions

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • The Psychology of False and Coerced Confessions
  • Interrogation Tactics
  • Types of Confessions
  • Interrogation Training
  • Laboratory Studies
  • Field and Aggregrated Case Studies
  • Deception Detection
  • Miranda
  • Confirmation Bias
  • Interrogation Law
  • Confessions in the Courtroom
  • Confession Experts in the Courtroom
  • Perceptions and Beliefs about Confessions
  • Videotaping Interrogations
  • Inquisitorial Interviewing
  • Military Interrogations and Torture

Criminology False and Coerced Confessions
by
Robert J. Norris, Allison Redlich

Introduction

In the past two decades, the scholarly interest in and literature on false and coerced confessions has grown tremendously. In large part, this growth is due to the uncovering of hundreds of factually innocent persons wrongly convicted because of false confessions. False confessions are statements made inside or outside the interrogation context that implicate the individual in a crime that he or she did not commit. False confessions can be made voluntarily or through coercion. Coerced confessions are statements that may be true or false but were not made by one’s own free will. In the United States, confessions are only admissible if they were made voluntarily. Most of the extant research has focused on false, as opposed to coerced, confessions. However, in understanding why an innocent person would claim responsibility for a crime she or he did not commit, it is also possible to understand why a guilty person would do so in the face of coercive interrogation tactics. False and coerced confessions have been studied using a variety of methodologies. The research has not only focused on how these confessions come about but also on related topics, such as their weight in the courtroom, the ability to recognize them, and reforms designed to reduce their occurrence.

General Overviews

The number of general overviews of police interrogation and confessions continues to amass. The single-authored book by Leo 2008 provides a comprehensive overview focusing on US practices and policies. Lassiter 2004 and Lassiter and Meissner 2010 cover a variety of relevant topics written by leaders in the field. Ofshe and Leo 1997 explain the decision to confess for guilty and innocent suspects. The article by Kassin, et al. 2010 represents a scientific consensus paper on police-induced confessions, culminating in suggested reforms for prevention. Wakefield and Underwager 1998 discuss coerced as well as false confessions.

  • Kassin, Saul M., Steven Drizin, Thomas Grisso, Gisli H. Gudjonsson, Richard A. Leo, and Allison D. Redlich. 2010. Police-induced confessions: Risk factors and recommendations. Law and Human Behavior 34:3–38.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10979-009-9188-6E-mail Citation »

    This scientific “white” paper was sponsored and approved by the American Psychology Law Society (Division 41 of American Psychological Association). It provides a history of confession law in the United States and focuses on police-induced true and false confessions. The paper ends with recommendations to prevent false confessions.

  • Lassiter, G. Daniel, ed. 2004. Interrogations, confessions, and entrapment. New York: Kluwer Academic.

    E-mail Citation »

    Provides an excellent overview of many of the topics relevant to interrogations and confessions. Chapter topics include a history of US interrogation practices, confirmation bias, vulnerable populations, and expert testimony.

  • Lassiter, G. Daniel, and Christian A. Meissner, eds. 2010. Police interrogations and false confessions: Current research, practice, and policy recommendations. Washington, DC: APA.

    DOI: 10.1037/12085-000E-mail Citation »

    The result of a two-day conference on interrogations, includes chapters from leaders in the field. The topics cover the majority of relevant aspects, including lie detection, interrogation of juveniles, videotaping, and Miranda.

  • Leo, Richard A. 2008. Police interrogation and American justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive overview of police interrogation in the United States, providing an excellent historical description of third-degree interrogation tactics to modern-day psychological techniques. In addition, Leo explains how false confessions and miscarriages of justice can arise. This book is appropriate for general audiences interested in the topic.

  • Wakefield, H., and R. Underwager. 1998. Coerced or nonvoluntary confessions. Behavioral Sciences and the Law 16:423–440.

    DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0798(199823)16:4<423::AID-BSL319>3.0.CO;2-2E-mail Citation »

    Provides a succinct overview of confession admissibility, expert testimony, and relations between suggestibility and nonvoluntary confessions. The authors provide four illustrative examples of coerced and false confessions.

LAST MODIFIED: 04/14/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0087

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions and individuals. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article

Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.

If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email onlinemarketing@oup.com to express your interest.

Article

Up

Down