The Center for Law & Human Behavior

THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO

 

 

 

 

Doctoral Dissertation Research: “It’s (Not) Your Fault” – The Influence of Blame Mitigation and Guilt Induction on True Versus False Confessions, National Science Foundation

False confessions remain an important social problem facing our criminal justice system. Research suggests that interrogation themes (which are similar to blame mitigation techniques; Malle, Guglielmo, & Monroe, 2014) can increase false confessions by minimizing a suspect’s perceptions of the consequences associated with confession (Horgan, Russano, Meissner, & Evans, 2012; Kassin et al., 2010). Proponents of these methods, however, assert that interrogation themes can minimize a suspect’s perceptions of moral responsibility independently from perceptions of legal consequences (Inbau, Reid, Buckley, & Jayne, 2011). However, blame mitigation research suggests that perceptions of responsibility are closely tied to decisions regarding punishment (e.g., Shultz, Schleifer, & Altman, 1981). Additionally, interrogation themes are designed to reduce a suspect’s feelings of guilt (Inbau et al., 2011), which may actually inhibit confessions from guilty suspects; true confessions are related to feelings of guilt and remorse (Houston, Meissner, & Evans, 2014). Thus, it may be beneficial to induce guilt rather than mitigate blame. The proposed dissertation addresses two primary aims: (1) to test practitioners’ assumption that blame mitigation can influence a suspect’s perceptions of his or her moral responsibility without also affecting perceptions of legal responsibility (i.e., punishment), and (2) to assess whether guilt induction as an interrogation technique produces more diagnostic outcomes (i.e., higher true-to-false confession ratio; Russano, Meissner, Narchet, & Kassin, 2005) when compared with blame mitigation or a direct questioning control method, and whether feelings of guilt and perceptions of responsibility and punishment mediate these effects.

 

 

Researchers 

one   

CHRIS MEISSNER, Ph.D., PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Iowa State University

Professor

Department of Psychology

 Woestehoff  

SKYE WOESTEHOFF

The University of Texas at El Paso

Ph.D. Student

Department of Psychology 

 

MeissnerWoestLab