Police Interrogations and False Confessions

starting point for research, I am selecting Scenario Two: Police Interrogations and False Confessions. The reason why I am selecting scenario two is that I have some degree of familiarity with the subject, and am fascinated by the ways people behave under pressure from authority figures, particularly law enforcement. I am also interested in scenario three related to the psychological aspects of disaster preparedness, but am more interested and concerned with criminal justice generally. Therefore, I narrowed down my selection of the scenarios mainly because of personal interest and curiosity about the subject matter, which motivates my desire to conduct the research necessary to write a proposal and complete the report.


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Scenario Two described involving false confessions raises several points about the ethics of criminal justice, and how officers lie in order to extract information from suspects or witnesses. That information should not be admissible in court but sometimes is because of the defendant’s lack of access to good legal counsel or lack of familiarity with the law. My role in this scenario is not to discuss criminal justice ethics, but to comment more about the social psychology of false confessions, from multiple angles and points of view.


To conduct the research, I will begin with the articles suggested at the end of the scenario. These two articles provide ample empirical support for the social psychological phenomena at stake in the scenario. The Gudjonssen & Pearse (2011) article talks about interrogation techniques commonly used by law enforcement in the United States, including the Reid technique, as well as techniques more common in the United Kingdom, which has a similar criminal justice system in general. The UK uses the PEACE model, according to Gudjonssen & Pearse (2011), who conclude that the Reid technique is actually inferior to the PEACE model in several ways, particularly in that it is confrontational and is based on a presumption of guilt, which tends to lead to more false confessions. The Kassin (2012) article uses the Amanda Knox trial to launch a discussion about how to minimize false confessions. Kassin (2012) shows how false confessions create chain reactions and confirmation biases. I may also need to conduct additional research on topics like confirmation bias, obedience to authority, compliance, social influence, and (interrogative) suggestibility, as indicated in the scenario description. After the research, I will present my conclusions and offer recommendations as a hypothetical psychologist working for the chief of police. I do not foresee any significant barriers to conducting the research, because this is a subject that has been fairly well documented.




Gudjonssen, G.H. & Pearse, J. (2011). Suspect interviews and false confessions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 33-37.


Kassin, S. M. (2012, April 30). Why Confessions Trump Innocence. American Psychologist, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028212


Discussion 2


Although the new owner means well, there are several problems with her business model. For one, the new business model assumes that customers are motivated by weight loss alone. While many customers will be motivated by weight loss, a great number want to exercise to feel better, to be healthy, to build muscle, stay in shape, or achieve athletic goals. Losing weight is not a reasonable or sufficient motivation to begin with, and is also an extrinsic motivator just as the financial reward is. Moreover, weight loss is not linear in nature and it may take some people longer to lose weight than others. Therefore, the new policy can be considered discriminatory. Beyond that, there are other problems with offering only extrinsic motivators for clients. Research shows that “performance-based extrinsic reward can actually undermine a person’s intrinsic motivation to engage in a task,” (Murayama, Matsumoto, Izuma & Matsumoto, 2010, p. 20911). Therefore, the owner would be better off increasing the intrinsic motivations for customers to return to the gym regularly.


Being too focused on weight loss can also lead to cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when two conflicting thoughts compete for attention. Research shows how cognitive dissonance impedes decision making in cases similar to those illustrated in this case study about the gym (Izuma et al. 2011). In order to retain customers, the new owner of the gym needs to simultaneously increase intrinsic rewards for regular exercise and healthy lifestyle while decreasing cognitive dissonance. This may require far less focus on superficial results of exercise like weight loss, and more education about the long-term health benefits of exercise including cardiovascular health, reduced risk for disease, and reduced stress. The new owner could also offer other types of intrinsic rewards such as fun classes that people actually enjoy attending, or more social engagements rather than viewing the classes as punishments.


Marketing is essentially about persuading people to change their behavior. In this case, the new owner needs to change not only how a customer spends money but their entire lifestyle. This requires the offering of incentives that are far beyond simply saving a few bucks on membership, because the customer knows that they could save even more money by not using the gym at all. To motivate and persuade clients to spend money on membership, the customers need to perceive value in the gym. The gym needs to offer something beyond mere weight loss, by offering a lifestyle. Marketing the gym as a means of transforming the person’s vision of their ideal self would increase motivation to remain members and also spread the word about the services on offer.




Izuma, K., et al. (2011). Neural correlates of cognitive dissonance and decision conflict. Advances in Cognitive Neurodynamics 3(2011): 623-628.


Murayama, K., Matsumoto, M. Izuma, K. & Matsumoto, K. (2010). Neural basis of the undermining effect of monetary reward on intrinsic motivation. PNAS 107(49): 20911 — 20916


Discussion 2, Topic 2


The research question is what personality characteristics cause some people to be more easily persuaded than others. Groupthink and the mob mentality are related areas of research. I hypothesize that people who have been brought up in environments where it is ok to be different will be more likely to stand up for what they believe rather than succumbing to groupthink. I believe this is an important area of research because many people buy into the “fake news,” because the fake news stories circulate on the Internet. People are responding to media in dangerous ways that undermine intelligent and critical thought. I believe that a research design could be experimental in nature, by disguising the true purpose of the study and randomly assigning participants to each group. At least twenty participants would be helpful to have, but more would make the study more reliable. I expect to find that people who are not afraid of social vulnerability and who have a strong sense of purpose are more able to resist groupthink.


Week 3 Discussion


This case shows how deeply ingrained stereotypes remain even in a multicultural society. Research continually shows how difficult it can be to dismantle stereotypes. Discrimination applies to females as well as people of color, contending with patriarchal and European hegemony. In fact, Dietz, et al. (2015) found that the more highly skilled an immigrant is, the more discrimination that person experiences in the workplace. A similar effect is witnessed in the case study on Tiffany’s, which is perceived to be a company that appeals to a rich white cohort. It is as if the people in power cling to their perceived cultural identities and in order to retain those identities, subconsciously or consciously discriminate against those who would threaten their hierarchical power.


Obedience to authority has a tremendous bearing on perpetuating discrimination and harassment. Some cultures are in fact more prone to deference to authority than others, but it may also have to do with a person’s financial situation or their perception of having social support. It is important that authority figures are questioned, even though questioning authority is a risky proposition. Authority figures have the ability to become tyrannical when they set a negative tone for an organization through discrimination. When discrimination or harassment is normalized, it creates a culture in which discrimination and harassment occur without any sanctions. If the people in positions of power discriminate, and subordinates are too afraid to stand up for their beliefs, then the result would be an organization that systematically discriminates. Tiffany’s is a good example, but there are many companies that systematically discriminate against women. The lack of women in positions of power shows how discrimination becomes embedded in the decision-making process of organizations.


Authority figures need to be kept in check by people who are willing to stand up for equality and human rights. As Dietz et al. (2015) suggest, human resources departments need to create safe and effective avenues for subordinates to make complaints and voice their opinions. If subordinates are afraid they will lose their jobs or be passed over for promotions because of speaking out, they perpetuate the discriminatory culture. People need to feel empowered in order to make the changes to the organizational culture. Attitudes towards race and gender can be changed by using tactics of social psychology including shaming those who hold negative stereotypes. Many people remain unaware that they are harboring negative attitudes or beliefs, and need to have it brought to their attention. Although some people claim that political correctness is insipid, it is actually an effective means of changing the culture.




Dietz, J. et al. (2015). The skill paradox: explaining and reducing employment discrimination against skilled immigrants. The International Journal of Human Resource Management 26(2015): 1318-1334.

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