“You’re Guilty, So Just Confess!”

Cognitive and Behavioral Confirmation Biases in the Interrogation Room
Part of the Perspectives in Law & Psychology book series (PILP, volume 20)


In Principles of Police Interrogation, Van Meter (1973) described the qualities of a good interrogator, which included such constructs as integrity, self-respect, and professional attitude. In addition, Van Meter suggested that individual prejudices should be left outside of the interrogation room, as a good interrogator must be impartial. He further elaborated:

I have told you to keep the purpose of the interrogation in mind, and to strive for the confession from your suspect. But you must remember that the person that you are talking to might not be guilty.... Maintain an impartial attitude throughout the interrogation, and you will not be put in the position of having to make excuses. After all, the courts try the person; you are only an investigator for the court, not the person who has to make the decision of guilt or innocence. By remaining impartial, you can also keep yourself on the sidelines, so to speak, and be in a better position to analyze the suspect’s reactions, your words and actions, and the facts in the case. You cannot think straight if you prejudge the person or if you become so personally involved in the case that you develop likes and dislikes. I have seen interrogators personally involved with a suspect, and they usually become very sensitive to the suspect and all that he says. This personal sensitivity often leads to harsh words and useless conversations with the suspect. (pp. 32–33)


Police Officer Confirmation Bias Mock Juror Police Interrogation Wrongful Conviction 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWilliams CollegeWilliamstownUSA

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