Effects of personality, interrogation techniques and plausibility in an experimental false confession paradigm


Correspondence should be addressed to Jessica R. Klaver, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada (e-mail: jklavera@sfu.ca).


Purpose. The goal of the present study was to investigate the effects of personality variables, interrogation techniques and the plausibility level of an alleged transgression on the experimental elicitation of false confessions.

Methods. Two hundred and nineteen undergraduate students assessed on measures of compliance, self-esteem, locus of control and interrogative suggestibility participated in the Kassin and Kiechel (1996) paradigm. Experimental manipulations included minimization and maximization interrogation techniques and high and low plausibility of the alleged typing mistake to examine rates of false confession and internalization.

Results. The overall false confession and internalization rates across all conditions were 43 and 10%, respectively. An increased likelihood of false confession behaviour was associated with higher Shift scores on the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale, the use of minimization interrogation techniques and an increase in the plausibility of the allegation. Females were more likely to falsely confess than males in the high plausibility condition, whereas Caucasian and Asian participants were equally likely to falsely confess. Personality variables, such as compliance, most influenced the behaviour of males and Asians.

Conclusions. The results of this study offer insight into false confession behaviour, suggesting that individuals who have a tendency to change their responses in the face of negative feedback may be more prone to false confession behaviour. The findings also serve to highlight the dangers of using minimization interrogation techniques and elucidate the limited generalizability of the paradigm to situations in which the alleged transgression is less plausible.