2011 BPS Annual Conference
Conference Venue: Marriott Hotel, Glasgow
British Psychological Society
From: 04 May 2011
To: 06 May 2011
High compliance: A risk factor for false confessions Wendy Paton
Glasgow Caledonian University
Objectives: Highly compliant individuals, who are susceptible to social influence, may be especially vulnerable to making false confessions. The study examined whether individual differences in compliance predicted subsequent behaviour following a false accusation.
Design: The study used a between participants design.
Methods: 117 participants, mainly members of the public, were recruited by opportunity sampling. After completing the Gudjonsson Compliance Scale participants with scores of 14 and above (N=20) or 5 and below (N=23) were assigned to the high and low compliance group respectively. Participants completed a computer-based task incorporating the standard experimental paradigm for investigating false confessions. After accusing participants of crashing the computer the researcher, who claimed to have witnessed the incident, requested signed confessions and recorded participants’ comments.
Results: Chi-square analysis demonstrated a significant association between levels of compliance and whether or not false confessions were elicited. Highly compliant participants were significantly more likely to falsely confess and also to make comments indicating complete or partial internalisation of guilt.
Conclusions: In comparison with previous findings fewer false confessions were elicited suggesting that members of the public are less susceptible to social pressure than undergraduate populations. However, despite a lack of pressure to confess and the absence of an independent witness, false confessions were readily elicited from highly compliant individuals. Participants’ comments provided tentative evidence that false-confessors were also more suggestible. These findings have theoretical and practical implications for innocent suspects who following exposure to interrogative pressure, may be at significantly increased risk of falsely confessing.
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