Skip to main content

“I'm Innocent!”: Effects of Training on Judgments of Truth and Deception in the Interrogation Room

Abstract

The present research examined the extent to which people can distinguish true and false denials made in a criminal interrogation, and tested the hypothesis that training in the use of verbal and nonverbal cues increases the accuracy of these judgments. In Phase One, 16 participants committed one of four mock crimes (breaking and entering, vandalism, shoplifting, a computer break-in) or a related but innocent act. Given incentives to deny involvement rather than confess, these suspects were then interrogated. In Phase Two, 40 observers were either trained in the analysis of verbal and nonverbal deception cues or not trained before viewing the videotaped interrogations and making their judgments. As in past studies conducted in nonforensic settings, observers were generally unable to distinguish between truthful and deceptive suspects. In addition, those who underwent training were less accurate than naive controls—though they were more confident and cited more reasons for their judgments. The implications of these findings are discussed in light of what is known about police interrogations, false confessions, and the wrongful conviction of innocent suspects.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  • Akehurst, L., Kohnken G., Vrij, A., & Bull, R. (1996). Laypersons' and police officers' beliefs regarding deceptive behavior. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 10, 461–471.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Aubry, A. S., & Caputo, R. R. (1980). Criminal interrogation (3rd ed.). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bedau, H., & Radelet, M. (1987). Miscarriages of justice in potentially capital cases. Stanford Law Review, 40, 21–179.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bond, C. F., & Fahey, W. E. (1987). False suspicion and the misperception of deceit. British Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 41–46.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borchard, E. M. (1932). Convicting the innocent: Errors of criminal justice. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Buller, D. B., Strzyzewski, K. D., & Hunsaker, F. G. (1991). Interpersonal deception: II. The inferiority of conversational participants as deception detectors. Communication Monographs, 58, 25–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., Ebesu, A. S., & Rockwell, P. (1994). Interpersonal deception: V. Accuracy in deception detection. Communication Monographs, 61, 303–325.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cassell, P. G. (1996). Miranda's social costs: An empirical reassessment. Northwestern University Law Review, 90, 387–499.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cassell, P. G. (1998). Protecting the innocent from false confessions and lost confessions—and from Miranda. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 88, 497–556.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • DePaulo, B. M. (1994). Spotting lies: Can humans learn to do better? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 3, 83–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DePaulo, B. M., Charlton, K., Cooper, H., Lindsay, J. J., & Muhlenbruck, L. (1997). The accuracy-confidence correlation in the detection of deception. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1, 346–357.

    Google Scholar 

  • DePaulo, B. M., & Friedman, H. (1998). Nonverbal communication. In D. Gilbert, S. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (4th ed., pp. 3–40). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • DePaulo, B. M., Lanier, K., & Davis, T. (1983). Detecting the deceit of the motivated liar. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 1096–1103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DePaulo, B. M., & Pfeifer, R. L. (1986). On-the-job experience at detecting deception. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 16, 252–267.

    Google Scholar 

  • deTurck, M. A., & Miller, G. R. (1990). Training observers to detect deception: Effects of self-monitoring and rehearsal. Human Communication Research, 16, 603–620.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ekman, P. (1985). Telling lies: Clues to deceit in the marketplace, politics, and marriage. New York: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1974). Detecting deception from the body or face. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 288–298.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ekman, P., & O'Sullivan, M. (1991). Who can catch a liar? American Psychologist, 46, 913–920.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Frank, M. G., & Ekman, P. (1997). The ability to detect deceit generalizes across different types of high-stake lies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1429–1439.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Geller, W. A. (1993). Videotaping interrogations and confessions. National Institute of Justice: Research in brief. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilovich, T., Savitsky, K., & Medvec, V. H. (1998). The illusion of transparency: Biased assessments of others' ability to read one's emotional states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 332–346.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gudjonsson, G. H. (1992). The psychology of interrogations, confessions, and testimony. London: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hilton, J. L., & Darley, J. M. (1991). The effects of interaction goals on person perception. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 24, 235–267.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoffman, J. (1998). Police refine methods so potent, even the innocent have confessed. New York Times, March 30, 1998, pp. A1, B4.

  • Horvath, F., Jayne, B., & Buckley, J. (1994). Differentiation of truthful and deceptive criminal suspects in behavior analysis interviews. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 39, 793–807.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Huff, C. R., Rattner, A., & Sagarin, E. (1986). Guilty until proven innocent: Wrongful conviction and public policy. Crime and Delinquency, 32, 518–544.

    Google Scholar 

  • Inbau, F. E., Reid, J. E., & Buckley, J. P. (1986). Criminal interrogation and confessions (3rd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jayne, B. C. (1986). The psychological principles of criminal interrogation. Appendix. In F. Inbau, J. Reid, & J. Buckley, Criminal interrogation and confessions (3rd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.

    Google Scholar 

  • John E. Reid and Associates (1991). The Reid Technique: Interviewing and interrogation [Videotape].

  • Kamisar, Y. (1965). Equal justice in the gatehouses and mansions of American criminal procedure. In A. Howard (Ed.), Criminal Justice in our Time (pp. 11–38). Charlotesville, VA. University Press of Virginia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kassin, S. M. (1997). The psychology of confession evidence. American Psychologist, 52, 221–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kassin, S. M., & Kiechel, K. L. (1996). The social psychology of false confessions: Compliance, internalization, and confabulation. Psychological Science, 7, 125–128.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kassin, S. M., & McNall, K. (1991). Police interrogations and confessions: Communicating promises and threats by pragmatic implication. Law and Human Behavior, 15, 233–251.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kassin, S. M., & Neumann, K. (1997). On the power of confession evidence: An experimental test of the “fundamental difference” hypothesis. Law and Human Behavior, 21, 469–484.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kassin, S. M., & Sukel, H. (1997). Coerced confessions and the jury: An experimental test of the “harmless error” rule. Law and Human Behavior, 21, 27–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kassin, S. M., & Wrightsman, L. S. (1985). Confession evidence. In S. Kassin & L. Wrightsman (Eds.), The psychology of evidence and trial procedure (pp. 67–94). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kraut, R. E., & Poe, D. (1980). On the line: The deception judgments of customs inspectors and laymen. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 784–798.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Landry, K. L., & Brigham, J. C. (1992). The effects of training in criteria-based content analysis on the ability of detecting deception in adults. Law and Human Behavior, 16, 663–676.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leo, R. A. (1996). Inside the interrogation room. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 86, 266–303.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leo, R. A., & Ofshe, R. (1998). The consequences of false confessions: Deprivations of liberty and miscarriages of justice in the age of psychological interrogation. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 88, 429–496.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leo, R. A., & Thomas, G. C. (1998). The Miranda debate: Law, justice, and policing. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Macdonald, J. M., & Michaud, D. L. (1987). The confession: Interrogation and criminal profiles for police officers. Denver: Apache.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 336 (1966).

  • Munsterberg, H. (1908). On the witness stand. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ofshe, R. J., & Leo, R. A. (1997). The social psychology of police interrogation: The theory and classification of true and false confessions. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, 16, 189–251.

    Google Scholar 

  • O'Hara, C. E., & O'Hara, G. L. (1981). Fundamentals of criminal investigation. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

    Google Scholar 

  • Penrod, S. D., & Cutler, B. (1995). Witness confidence and witness accuracy: Assessing their forensic relation. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 1, 817–845.

    Google Scholar 

  • Porter, S., & Yuille, J. C. (1996). The language of deceit: An investigation of the verbal cues to deception in the interrogation context. Law and Human Behavior, 20, 443–458.

    Google Scholar 

  • Radelet, M. L., Bedau, H. A., & Putnam, C. E. (1992). In spite of innocence: Erroneous convictions in capital cases. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schulhofer, S. J. (1996). Miranda's practical effect: Substantial benefits and vanishingly small social costs. Northwestern University Law Review, 90, 500–564.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shuy, R. W. (1998). The language of confession, interrogation, and deception. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simon, D. (1991). Homicide: A year on the killing streets. New York: Ivy Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Snyder, M. (1984). When belief creates reality. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 18, 207–303.

    Google Scholar 

  • Snyder, M., & Swann, W. B. (1978). Hypothesis-testing processes in social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 1202–1212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sporer, S. L. (1997). The less travelled road to truth: Verbal cues in deception detection in accounts of fabricated and self-experienced events. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 11, 373–397.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sporer, S. L., Penrod, S. D., Read, J. D., & Cutler, B. L. (1995). Choosing, confidence, and accuracy: A meta-analysis of the confidence-accuracy relation in eyewitness identification studies. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 315–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vrij, A. (1994). The impact of information and setting on detection of deception by police detectives. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 18, 117–136.

    Google Scholar 

  • Walkley, J. (1987). Police Interrogation: Handbook for investigators. London: Police Review.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wells, G. L., & Murray, D. M. (1984). Eyewitness confidence. In G. Wells & E. Loftus (Eds.), Eyewitness testimony: Psychological perspectives. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wrightsman, L. S., & Kassin, S. M. (1993). Confessions in the courtroom. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zuckerman, M., DePaulo, B. M., & Rosenthal, R. (1981). Verbal and nonverbal communication of deception. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 14, 1–59.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zuckerman, M., Knee, C. R., Hodgins, H. S., & Miyake, K. (1995). Hypothesis confirmation: The joint effect of positive test strategy and acquiescence response set. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 52–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zuckerman, M., Koestner, R., & Alton, A. O. (1984). Learning to detect deception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 519–528.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zulawski, D. E., & Wicklander, D. E. (1993). Practical aspects of interview and interrogation. Oxford: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Saul M. Kassin.

About this article

Cite this article

Kassin, S.M., Fong, C.T. “I'm Innocent!”: Effects of Training on Judgments of Truth and Deception in the Interrogation Room. Law Hum Behav 23, 499–516 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022330011811

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022330011811

Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Past Study
  • Police Interrogation
  • Wrongful Conviction
  • False Confession