Psychology and the Fourth Amendment

  • Eve M. BrankEmail author
  • Jennifer L. Groscup
Part of the Advances in Psychology and Law book series (APL, volume 3)


The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that people are to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” It further requires that warrants to perform such searches and seizures are based on probable cause with specific descriptions of what will be searched or seized. Supreme Court case law has contextualized this standard and applied a number of exceptions. As is often the case in the law, those standards and exceptions have psychological foundations and implications. The current chapter first examines the historical background of the Fourth Amendment. That history is replete with examples of the judiciary making psychological assumptions about people’s behavior. Next, we examine modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence focusing on when a search or seizure triggers Fourth Amendment protections. In particular, we address the use of surveillance and technology (including trained canines) that seem to push the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment’s original intent. Finally, we address the issue of consenting to a search request because a search will not violate the Fourth Amendment if there is a valid consent. We detail empirical research addressing the psychological mechanisms underlying the validity and voluntariness of such consents.


Fourth Amendment Search and seizure Constitutional Rights Privacy Exclusionary rule 


  1. Amar, A. R. (1994). Fourth Amendment first principles. Harvard Law Review, 107(4), 757–819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asch, S. E. (1955). Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American, 193, 31–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bambauer, J. Y. (2012). How the war on drugs distorts privacy law. Stanford Law Review Online, 64, 131–138.Google Scholar
  4. Bambauer, J. Y. (2013). Defending the dog. Oregon Law Review, 91, 1203–1211.Google Scholar
  5. Barrett, E. L. (1960). Personal rights, property rights, and the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court Review, 1960, 46–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barsalou, L. W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617–645. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bector, S. (2009). Your laptop, please: The search and seizure of electronic devices at the United States border. Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 24, 695–718.Google Scholar
  8. Benforado, A. (2010). The body of the mind: Embodied cognition, law, and justice. Saint Louis University Law Journal, 54, 1185–1217.Google Scholar
  9. Bickman, L. (1974). The social power of a uniform. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 4, 47–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blumenthal, J. A., Adya, M., & Mogle, J. (2009). The multiple dimensions of privacy: Testing lay “expectations of privacy.” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, 11, 331-373.Google Scholar
  11. Bradley, C. M. (1985). Two models of the Fourth Amendment. Michigan Law Review Association, 83(6), 1468–1501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brank, E.M., Groscup, J.L., Haby, J.A., & Hoetger, L.A. (2016, March). I’m cramped and hot: Subtle environmental effects on consents to search. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, Atlanta, GA.Google Scholar
  13. Brank, E.M., Groscup, J.L., Hoetger, L.A., Wiley, L.E., & Haby, J.A. (2015, March). Even If I know I Shouldn’t, I’m Still Going to Consent to a Search: The Impact of Knowledge of Rights and Warnings about Rights on Actual Consent to Search Decisions. Paper presentation at the annual meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, San Diego, California.Google Scholar
  14. Brendlin v. California. , 551 U.S. 249 (2007).Google Scholar
  15. Burger, J. M. (2009). Replicating Milgram: Would people still obey today? American Psychologist, 64, 1–11. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Burger, J. M., Oakman, J. A., & Bullard, N. (1983). Desire for control and the perception of crowding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 9, 475–479. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988).Google Scholar
  18. Carbado, D. W. (2002). (E)racing the Fourth Amendment. Michigan Law Review, 100(5), 946–1044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Casper, J. D., Benedict, K., & Kelly, J. R. (1988). Cognitions, attitudes and decision-making in search and seizure cases. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 93–113. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chanenson, S. L. (2004). Get the facts, Jack! Empirical research and the changing constitutional landscape of consent searches. Tennessee Law Review, 71, 399–470.Google Scholar
  21. Chen, M., & Bargh, J. A. (1999). Consequences of automatic evaluation: Immediate behavioral predispositions to approach or avoid the stimulus. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 215–224. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969).Google Scholar
  23. City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000).Google Scholar
  24. Couillard, D. A. (2011). Defogging the cloud: Applying the Fourth Amendment to evolving privacy expectations in cloud computing. Minnesota Law Review, 93, 101–134.Google Scholar
  25. Davies, T. Y. (1999). Recovering the Original Fourth Amendment. Michigan Law Review, 98, 547-750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Davies, T. Y. (2008). Correcting search-and-seizure history: Now-forgotten common-law warrantless arrest standards and the original meaning of due process of law. Mississippi Law Journal, 77, 1–224.Google Scholar
  27. Dworkin, R. B. (1973). Fact style adjudication and the Fourth Amendment: The limits of lawyering. Indiana Law Journal, 48(3), 329–368.Google Scholar
  28. Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206 (1960)Google Scholar
  29. Fischhoff, B. (1975). Hindsight is not equal to foresight: The effect of outcome knowledge on judgment under uncertainty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1, 288–299. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429 (1991).Google Scholar
  31. Florida v. Harris, 133 S.Ct. 1050 (2013)Google Scholar
  32. Florida v. Jardines, 133 S.Ct. 1409 (2013).Google Scholar
  33. Florida v. J.L., 529 U.S. 266 (2000).Google Scholar
  34. Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445 (1989).Google Scholar
  35. Gochman, I. R., & Keating, J. P. (1980). Misattributions to crowding: Blaming crowding for nondensity-caused events. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 4, 157–175. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Griffiths, P. E., & Scarantino, A. (2009). Emotions in the wild: The situated perspective on emotion. In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition (pp. 437–453). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Groscup, J.L., Brank, E. M., Roizin, E., Gold, R., & Sachs, L. (2015, March) Warning me that I can say no will only make me feel better about saying yes: The effects of police warnings and understanding of rights in a consent search. Paper presentation at the annual meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  38. Groscup, J. L., Marshall, E., & Brank, E. M. (2016, March). Hey officer, don’t fence me in! The impact of exit-blocking, physical distance, and relative physical position on perceptions of consent searches. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, Atlanta, GA.Google Scholar
  39. Groscup, J., Rivera, A., Hoetger, L., & Brank, E. (2014, March). Give me a home where the drug sniffing dog doesn’t roam: Privacy expectations for canine searches. Paper presented at the American Psychology & Law Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA, March, 2014.Google Scholar
  40. Henderson, M., Wakslak, C., Fujita, K., & Rohrbach, J. (2011). Construal level theory and spatial distance: Implications for mental representation, judgment, and behavior. Social Psychology, 42, 165–173. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hinkel, D., & Mahr, J. (2011, January 6). Drug-sniffing dogs in traffic stops often wrong. The Chicago Tribune.Google Scholar
  42. Ijzerman, H., & Semin, G. (2009). The thermometer of social relations: Mapping social proximity on temperature. Psychological Science, 20, 1214–1220. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 125 S.Ct. 834 (2005).Google Scholar
  44. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983).Google Scholar
  45. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210 (1984).Google Scholar
  46. Kagehiro, D. K. (1988). Perceived voluntariness of consent to warrantless police searches. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 38–49. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kagehiro, D. K. (1990). Psycholegal research on the Fourth Amendment. Psychological Science, 1, 187–193. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kagehiro, D. K., & Taylor, R. B. (1991). Third-party consent searches: Legal vs. social perceptions of common authority. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18, 1274–1287. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Kagehiro, D. K., Taylor, R. B., & Harland, A. T. (1991). Reasonable expectation of privacy and third-party consent searches. Law and Human Behavior, 15, 121–138. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kagehiro, D. K., Taylor, R. B., Laufer, W. S., & Harland, A. T. (1991). Hindsight bias and third-party consentors to warrantless police searches. Law and Human Behavior, 15, 305–314. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Kassin, S., Drizen, S., Grisso, T., Gudjonsson, G., Leo, R., & Redlich, A. (2009). Police-induced confessions: Risk factors and recommendations. Law and Human Behavior, 34, 3–38. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Kassin, S., & Gudjonsson, G. (2004). The psychology of confessions: A review of the literature and issues. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 33–67. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Katz v. United States. 389 U.S. 347 (1967).Google Scholar
  54. Kerr, O. S. (2007). Four models of Fourth Amendment protection. Stanford Law Review, 60, 503–551.Google Scholar
  55. Kerr, O. S. (2010). Applying the Fourth Amendment to the internet: A general approach. Stanford Law Review, 62, 1005–1038.Google Scholar
  56. Kerr, O. S. (2012). The mosaic theory of the Fourth Amendment. Michigan Law Review, 111, 311–354.Google Scholar
  57. Kessler, D. K. (2009). Free to leave? An empirical look at the Fourth Amendment’s seizure standard. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 99, 51–87.Google Scholar
  58. Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 121 S.Ct. 2038 (2001)Google Scholar
  59. LaFave, W., Israel, J., King, N. J., & Kerr, O. S. (2009). Hornbook on criminal procedure (5th ed.). St. Paul: West Publishing Co..Google Scholar
  60. Lakens, D., Semin, G., & Foroni, F. (2011). Why your highness needs the people: Comparing the absolute and relative representation of power in vertical space. Social Psychology, 42, 205–213. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lassiter, G. D., Diamond, S. S., Schmidt, H. C., & Elek, J. K. (2007). Evaluating videotaped confessions: Expertise provides no defense against the camera-perspective effect. Psychological Science, 18, 224–226. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Lewin, K. (1943). Defining the ‘field at a given time.’. Psychological Review, 50, 292–310. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Lichtenberg, I. D. (2000). Voluntary consent or obedience to authority: An inquiry into the ‘consensual’ police-citizen encounter. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest. AAT 9947571.Google Scholar
  64. Lichtenberg, I. D. (2001). Miranda in Ohio: The effect of Robinette on the “voluntary” waiver of Fourth Amendment Rights. Howard Law Journal, 44, 349–374.Google Scholar
  65. Lichtenberg, I. D. (2004a). The impact of verbal warning on police consent search practices. Journal of Criminal Justice, 32, 85–87. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Lichtenberg, I. D. (2004b). The bus-sweep controversy: Agency, authority, and the unresolved issue of third-party consent. University of Detroit Mercy Law Review, 81, 145–173.Google Scholar
  67. Lichtenberg, I. D., & Smith, A. (2001). Testing the effectiveness of consent searches as a law enforcement tool. The Justice Professional, 14, 95–111. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Loewy, A. (1983). The Fourth Amendment as a Device for Protecting the Innocent. Michigan Law Review, 81(5), 1229–1272. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. MacLin, T. (1998). Race and the Fourth Amendment. Vanderbilt Law Review, 51, 333–393.Google Scholar
  70. Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).Google Scholar
  71. Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An experimental view. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  72. Nadler, J. (2002). No need to shout: Bus sweeps and the psychology of coercion. Supreme Court Review, 153–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Nadler, J., & Trout, J. D. (2012)). The language of consent in police encounters. In P. Tiersma & L. Solan (Eds.). Oxford Handbook on Linguistics and the Law. (326-339). New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  74. Najdowski, C. J. (2011). Stereotype threat in criminal interrogations: Why innocent black suspects are at risk for confessing falsely. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 17, 562–591. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Nardone v. United States, 308 U.S. 338 (1939).Google Scholar
  76. Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33 (1996).Google Scholar
  77. Oliver v. U.S., 466 U.S. 170 (1984).Google Scholar
  78. Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928).Google Scholar
  79. Ping, R. M., Dhillon, S., & Beilock, S. L. (2009). Reach for what you like: The body’s role in shaping preferences. Emotion Review, 1(2), 140. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014).Google Scholar
  81. Rivera, A., & Groscup, J. (2014, March). Good dog! How the background of law enforcement dogs affects perceptions of canine searches. Poster presented at the American Psychology & Law Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA, March, 2014.Google Scholar
  82. Robbennolt, J. K., & Sobus, M. S. (1997). An integration of hindsight bias and counterfactual thinking: Decision-making and drug courier profiles. Law and Human Behavior, 21, 539–560. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  83. Robbins, P., & Aydede, M. (2009). A short primer on situated cognition. In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition (pp. 3–10). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  84. Russano, M. B., Meissner, C. A., Narchet, F. M., & Kassin, S. M. (2005). Investigating true and false confessions within a novel experimental paradigm. Psychological Science, 16, 481–486.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. Scherr, K. C., & Madon, S. (2012). You have the right to understand: The deleterious effect of stress on suspects’ ability to comprehend Miranda. Forthcoming in Law and Human Behavior.
  86. Schnall, S., Harber, K. D., Stefanucci, J. K., & Proffitt, D. R. (2008). Social support and the perception of geographical slant. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1246–1255. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  87. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1973)Google Scholar
  88. Semin, G. R., & Smith, E. R. (2002). Interfaces of social psychology with situated and embodied cognition. Cognitive Systems Research, 1, 85–97. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States (1920)Google Scholar
  90. Simmons, R. (2005). Not “voluntary” but still reasonable: A new paradigm for understanding the consent searches doctrine. Indiana Law Journal, 80, 773–824.Google Scholar
  91. Sklansky, D. A. (2000). The Fourth Amendment and common law. Columbia Law Review, 100(7), 1739–1814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Slobogin, C. (1991). The world without a Fourth Amendment. University of California Los Angeles Law Review, 39, 1–107.Google Scholar
  93. Slobogin, C., & Schumacher, J. E. (1993). Reasonable expectations of privacy and autonomy in Fourth Amendment cases: An empirical look at “understanding recognized and permitted by society”. Duke Law Journal, 42, 727–775. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Slobogin, C. (2013). Making the most of United States v. Jones in a surveillance society: A statutory implementation of mosaic theory. Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, 8, 1-37.Google Scholar
  95. Smith, E. R. (2008). Social relationships and groups: New insights on embodied and distributed cognition. Cognitive Systems Research, 9, 24–32. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Smith, E. R., & Collins, E. C. (2009). Contextualizing person perception: Distributed social cognition. Psychological Review, 116, 343–364. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  97. Smith, E. R., & Semin, G. R. (2007). Situated social cognition. Current directions in psychological science, 16(3), 132–135. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979).Google Scholar
  99. Spivey, M., & Richardson, D. (2009). Language processing embodied and embedded. In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition (pp. 382–400). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  100. State v. Johnson, 346 A. 2d 66 (N.J. 1975).Google Scholar
  101. State v. Ferrier, 960 P. 2d. 927 (Wash. 1998).Google Scholar
  102. Stefanucci, J. K., Proffitt, D. R., Clore, G., & Parekh, N. (2008). Skating down a steeper slope: Fear influences the perception of geographical slant. Perception, 37, 321–323. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  103. Steidle, A., Werth, L., & Hanke, E.-V. (2011). You can’t see much in the dark: Darkness affects construal level and psychological distance. Social Psychology, 42, 174–184. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Stokols, D. (1972). On the distinction between density and crowding: Some implications for future research. Psychological Review, 79, 275–277. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  105. Stuntz, W. J. (1991). Warrants and Fourth Amendment remedies. Virginia Law Review, 77(5), 881–943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Stuntz, W. J. (1995). The problems with privacy’s problem: Reply. Michigan Law Review, 93(5), 1102–1104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Sundby, S. E. (1994). “Everyman”’s Fourth Amendment: Privacy or mutual trust between government and citizen? Columbia Law Review, 94(6), 1751–1812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Sutherland, B. A. (2006). Whether consent to search was given voluntarily: A statistical analysis of factors that predict the suppression ruling of the federal district courts. New York University Law Review, 81, 2192–2225.Google Scholar
  109. Taslitz, A. E. (2006). Reconstructing the Fourth Amendment: A history of search and seizure, 1789-1868. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  110. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).Google Scholar
  111. Thompson, A. C. (1999). Stopping the usual suspects: Race and the Fourth Amendment. New York University Law Review, 74, 956–1013.Google Scholar
  112. Tiersma, P. M., & Solan, L. M. (2004). Cops and robbers: Selective literalism in American criminal law. Law and Society Review, 38, 229–265. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  113. Trope, Y., & Liberman, N. (2010). Construal-level theory of psychological distance. Psychological Review, 117, 440–463. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  114. Trupiano v. United States, 334 U.S. 699 (1948).Google Scholar
  115. Tversky, B. (2009). Spatial cognition: Embodied and situated. In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition (pp. 201–216). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  116. Twenge, J. M. (2009). Change over time in obedience: The jury’s still out, but it might be decreasing. American Psychologist, 64, 28–31. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  117. U.S. v. Barrows 481 F.3d 1246 (10th Cir. 2007).Google Scholar
  118. U.S. v. David, 756 F. Supp. 1385 (D. Nev. 1991).Google Scholar
  119. U.S. v. Drayton, 536 U.S. 194 (2002).Google Scholar
  120. U.S. v. Jones, Transcript of oral argument at 44. 132S.Ct.945 (2012) (No. 10-1295)Google Scholar
  121. U.S. v. Knotts, 460 U.S. 276 (1983).Google Scholar
  122. U.S. v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164 (1974)Google Scholar
  123. U.S. v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435 (1976)Google Scholar
  124. U. S. v. Place, 462 U.S. 696 (1983)Google Scholar
  125. U.S. v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56 (1950)Google Scholar
  126. U.S. v. Rodriguez, 135 S.Ct. 1609 (2014)Google Scholar
  127. U.S. v. White, 401 U.S. 745 (1971).Google Scholar
  128. U.S. v. Wurie, 728 F.3d I (2013)Google Scholar
  129. Watzel, R. (2014). Implications for fourth amendment protection in the cloud. Yale L. J. F., 124, 73-79. Retrieved from cloud
  130. Webb, B., Worchel, S., Riechers, L., & Wayne, W. (1986). The influence of categorization on perceptions of crowding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12, 539–546. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  131. Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914).Google Scholar
  132. Williams, L. E., & Bargh, J. A. (2008). Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth. Science, 332, 606–607. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  133. Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 9(4), 625. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  134. Wilson, K, Brank, E., Groscup, J., & Marshall, E. (2015, March). I don’t know much, but I know I don’t trust you: Knowledge of 4th amendment rights and reactions to police requests to search. Paper presented at the American Psychology & Law Association Annual Conference, San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  135. Winn, P. (2009). Katz and the origins of the “reasonable expectations of privacy” test. McGeorge Law Review, 40, 1–13.Google Scholar
  136. Wylie, L. E., Hazen, K. A., Hoeter, L. A., Haby, J. A., & Brank, E. M. (2018, preprint). Four decades of psychology and law: An Empirical Review. Scientometrics.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyScripps CollegeClaremontUSA

Personalised recommendations