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Offenders' Uncoerced False Confessions: A New Application of Statement Analysis?

NCJ Number
Legal and Criminological Psychology Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2012 Pages: 346-359
Rebecca M. Willen; Leif A. Stromwall
Date Published
September 2012
14 pages
This study examined true and false confessions as told by offenders.
Deception detection research has mainly studied denials and distortions given by students. This study examined true and false confessions as told by offenders. It was hypothesized that the statement analytic techniques Criteria-Based Content Analysis (CBCA) and Reality Monitoring (RM) would discriminate truths and lies. Truthful and deceptive confessions to crime were given by 30 offenders (both women and men) in a within-subject design. The participants were in prison at the time of data collection, and told the truth about a crime they had committed and been sentenced for. In addition, they made up a lie about a different crime after a few minutes of preparation. The transcribed statements were scored for CBCA and RM criteria. Results showed that neither total CBCA nor total RM scores differentiated between lies and truths. Some individual CBCA criteria, however, showed differences: more self-deprecations and doubts about own testimony in the told lies, and more unexpected complications in the truths. The results are discussed in relation to statement analysis of offenders' accounts, individual CBCA criteria, as well as the development of criminal experience and familiarity with the event and setting. Implications for triers of fact and suggestions for future research are considered. Abstract published by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons.