Coercive Interrogation of Eyewitnesses Can Produce False Accusations
In the current study we hypothesized – and found – that coercive interviewing increased the incidences of false accusations made by eyewitnesses. Fifty-nine university students participated in a laboratory study in participant-confederate pairs and were later interviewed about whether the confederate stole a research assistant’s cell phone. Participants interviewed using a Coercive Interview were significantly more likely to falsely accuse the confederate of stealing a cell phone than were participants interviewed using a non-coercive, Control Interview. Our findings raise questions regarding why participants gave false accusations and whether coercive methods could result in more accurate testimony from reluctant witnesses. We suggest the need for potential safeguards, such as the electronic recording of interviews of non-suspect witnesses to prevent or document the use of coercive methods.