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Social Psychology on False Confessions - Dictionary of Arguments

Parisi I 134
False Confessions/Social Psychology/Nadler/Mueller: The physical surroundings of the interrogation are an important feature of their potential for effectively extracting an admission of guilt. Often police will interrogate a suspect in a small windowless room in the police station or other law enforcement facility, and the suspect will be isolated from his social support network of family and friends. This increases the suspect's anxiety and desire to escape (Kassin, 2008)(1). A major source of pressure on the suspect is the interrogators' confrontation with the accusation of guilt and blocking of attempts to deny guilt.
Innocent people who have falsely confessed often later report that they did so simply to put an end to the stress of the seemingly never-ending confrontation. These people almost always convince themselves that the truth will come to light after they are able to escape their tormentors in the interrogation room.
Minimization/maximization: In order to convince the suspect that confessing is more advantageous than holding out, interrogators use techniques called minimization and maximization. Minimization entails convincing the suspect that the police and/or prosecutors are prepared to believe that the offense was not as serious as the accusation suggests, often because of mitigating circumstances such as self-defense, intoxication, or duress. Other face-saving justifications often suggested to suspects include the notion that their actions were peer-pressured, spontaneous, or accidental (Kassin et al., 2010)(2).
Minimization: Implicit in the minimization
Parisi I 135
theme is a promise of leniency, or even that the suspect’s actions d not constitute a crime at all. In one experiment, participants were twice as likely to confess when the minimization technique was used; innocent participants were three times as likely to confess with the minimization technique (Russano et al., 2005)(3); other experiments have demonstrated that the minimization technique increases the risk of false confessions (Klaver, Lee, and Rose, 2008)(4).
Maximization: Here, the implication is that because the evidence of guilt is so strong, the suspect will be convicted regardless of whether he confesses; but cooperating with investigators is the only way to avoid the harshest punishment, for example the death penalty. Interrogators in the United States (but not in most of Europe) are lawfully permitted to manufacture false evidence to convince the suspect of the strength of the evidence against him.
Detailed confessions: Many documented false confessions consist of rich, detailed, and accurate accounts of the crime. Case studies of wrongfully convicted people show that these details were unknown to the suspect, but were disclosed to them by interrogators. >Punishment/Social Psychology.


1. Kassin, S. M. (2008). " The Psychology of Confessions." Annual Review of Law and social science 4(1): 193-217. doi:10.1146/annurev.1awsocsci.4.110707.172410.
2. Kassin, S. M., S. A. Drizin, T. Grisso, G. H. Gudjonsson, R. A. Leo, and A. D. Redlich (2010). "Police-Induced Confessions: Risk Factors and Recommendations." Law and Human Behavior 34(1): 3-38. doi:10.1007/s10979-009-9188-6.
3. Russano, M. B., C. A. Meissner, F. M. Narchet, and S. M. Kassin (2005). "Investigating True and False Confessions Within a Novel Experimental Paradigm." Psychological Science 16(6): 481-486.
4. Klaver, J. R., Z. Lee, and V. G. Rose (2008). "Effects of Personality, Interrogation Techniques
and Plausibility in an Experimental False Confession Paradigm." Legal and Criminological Psychology doi:10.1348/135532507X193051.


Nadler, Janice and Pam A. Mueller. „Social Psychology and the Law“. In: Parisi, Francesco (ed) (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Law and Economics. Vol 1: Methodology and Concepts. NY: Oxford University Pres


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The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Social Psychology
Parisi I
Francesco Parisi (Ed)
The Oxford Handbook of Law and Economics: Volume 1: Methodology and Concepts New York 2017


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