Requests for reprints should be addressed to Dorothy Kagehiro, Criminal Justice Department, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122.
Perceived Voluntariness of Consent to Warrantless Police Searches1
Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 18, Issue 1, pages 38–49, January 1988
How to Cite
Kagehiro, D. K. (1988), Perceived Voluntariness of Consent to Warrantless Police Searches. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 18: 38–49. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1988.tb00003.x
This research was conducted while the author was supported as a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Law-Psychology Program (NIMH Training Grant 5 T32 MH16156–04). Gary Melton and Ralph Taylor provided helpful comments on an earlier draft, and W. Clark Stanton assisted in data collection.
- Issue online: 31 JUL 2006
- Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
Two issues involved in warrantless consent searches were examined: perceived voluntariness of consent and affirmativeness, or the form of a police search request. Research on actor-observer divergence in causal perceptions suggests the possibility of misunderstandings between courts and defendants concerning perceived voluntariness of consent to warrantless searches. Research on speech-act theory suggests that perceived choice of consent would be greatest when a search request was phrased interrogatively and unspecifically. In a laboratory experimental investigation of these legal issues, 96 subjects read vignettes in which two levels of perspective (consentor or observer) were crossed with two levels of request form (interrogative or declarative) and two levels of request specificity (not specific or specific). Observers underestimated the likelihood of consentors' requesting more information about the search request and overestimated consentors' perceived freedom to revoke consent and the permitted scope of the search. Search requests phrased interrogatively resulted in higher perceived choice in permitting entry, but also resulted in higher perceived likelihood of actually granting entry. Ignorance of legal ramifications of consent searches appears to be widespread, even in a college-educated sample.