What does science tell us about false confessions?
Why would an innocent person accused of a crime confess? Saul Kassin, a psychology professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Williams College, has spent decades researching that question. He says the answer resides in the incredible pressures that can mount during police interrogations.
False confessions pose a serious problem for fact-finding investigations. Once judges or juries hear a confession, changing their minds – even with solid evidence contradicting the confession – is extremely difficult.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences directorate, Kassin is now exploring ways to reduce false confessions and present confession evidence to judges and juries in ways that avoid unfairly biasing cases. He works with stakeholders including police and prosecutors, who have a strong incentive to reduce false confessions.
Kassin’s research pages: