As an author who traveled to Orlando recently to speak to law enforcement investigators from around the world about my book on credibility assessment technologies, I was intrigued by the findings of a recent scientific study about why innocent people confess to crimes. The findings, highlighted in the Discovery News video below, seem to support what I uncovered during the exhaustive four-year investigation upon which my book is based.
The study, published Jan. 15 under the title, “Constructing Rich False Memories of Committing Crime,” was conducted by researchers Julia Shaw of the University of Bedfordshire and Stephen Porter at the University of British Columbia. The abstract of the study appears below:
Memory researchers long have speculated that certain tactics may lead people to recall crimes that never occurred, and thus could potentially lead to false confessions. This is the first study to provide evidence suggesting that full episodic false memories of committing crime can be generated in a controlled experimental setting. With suggestive memory-retrieval techniques, participants were induced to generate criminal and noncriminal emotional false memories, and we compared these false memories with true memories of emotional events. After three interviews, 70% of participants were classified as having false memories of committing a crime (theft, assault, or assault with a weapon) that led to police contact in early adolescence and volunteered a detailed false account. These reported false memories of crime were similar to false memories of noncriminal events and to true memory accounts, having the same kinds of complex descriptive and multisensory components. It appears that in the context of a highly suggestive interview, people can quite readily generate rich false memories of committing crime.
Law enforcement investigators use two credibility assessment technologies more than any others and, sometimes, in conjunction with hours-long interviews/interrogations. One is the polygraph which, as I explained in an Oct. 24 piece, can cost taxpayers millions after DNA evidence proves a confession false decades after it was extracted from a suspect. The other is a non-polygraph technology used by more than 1,800 local and state law enforcement agencies in the United States and by hundreds of law enforcement agencies around the world.
To learn the truth about both options and about the “turf war” keeping one out of the hands of our nation’s military and intelligence warfighters who used it with great success before it was unceremoniously ripped from their toolkits by top Department of Defense officials, order a copy of my second nonfiction book, The Clapper Memo.
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