What can happen when interviewers plant false memories leading to false confessions. Michigan false allegation and criminal defense lawyers 866-766-5245

False Confessions: Study Shows People Can Be Tricked

How many people have falsely confessed to crimes due to police pressure during interviews only to be cleared by DNA evidence years later? This troubling question may lead people to wonder how false confessions can happen in the first place.

In a recent study, psychologists found that innocent people can be convinced they have committed a violent crime that never actually happened. Using suggestions, 70% of the participants in a study were convinced they were criminals.

After only a few hours of skillful interviewing, adults could be fooled into believing they have committed any number of crimes as a teenager, including assault with and without a weapon, or theft.

The sixty college students that participated in the study not only confessed to crimes they did not commit; they also recalled detailed, vivid experiences.  None of the students had a criminal record or even prior contact with police.  The lead researcher of the study, Julia Shaw, a forensic psychology lecturer from the University of Bedfordshire (UK), was surprised by the results. She thought the success rate would be much lower; at around 30% instead of the 70% it turned out to be.

The study process was extensive. First, the parents filled out a form with questions about the student’s life as a teenager. Then the student underwent three interviews lasting about 40 minutes long at one-week intervals.

During the first interview, the student was told about two experiences he or she had as a teenager, one true and one false.

One half of the interviewed students were told about a false crime that resulted with police contact. The other half was told about an emotional situation, including a dog attack or a huge loss of money.

When the researchers described the false event to the student, true details from the student’s teenage years were peppered throughout the account.

Next the student was asked to explain what happened for both events. If there was any problem explaining the false event, the researcher encouraged the person to try to recall the instance anyway.

For the next two interviews, the researchers pressed the student again to remember as much as possible about both experiences. In addition, the student described how vivid the memory was and the level of confidence about it.

The result? The student internalized a fake story

This study is the first of its kind under controlled experimental conditions and provides evidence showing that entire false memories can be created.  The findings have clear legal implications for criminal interrogations and witness interviews.

Mark Godsey, director and co-founder of the Ohio Innocence Project, stated some police already use Shaw’s techniques and tactics. Furthermore, a coercive police interview would not only have all the features of the study in question, but also the added criminal consequences as well.

As attorneys, we see this happen frequently.  Especially in the case of children, false allegations come from planted false memories.  And the accused can be made to believe they did something wrong, when the reality is they did not. Accused of a crime you didn’t commit? The experienced attorneys of The Kronzek Firm PLC can help. Call us. 866-766-5245

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