- False confessions/admissions are problematic not only because of the conviction of the innocent, but also because the guilty elude justice. Research has traditionally tackled this issue by identifying methods that increase the risk of false confession. However, there has recently been a shift towards using psychological theory to enhance methods, with the goal of helping investigators distinguish between guilty and innocent suspects. One such method is the Strategic Use of Evidence (SUE), which involves strategic timing of evidence disclosure (e.g., early vs. late disclosure) and strategic evidence-related questioning to increase statement-evidence inconsistencies in guilty suspects' statements. While SUE has been demonstrated to effectively enhance the difference between liars and truth-tellers, it has yet to be tested using experimental methods rich in psychological realism that better simulate real-world situations (i.e., participants intentionally commit a transgression and are subsequently questioned). In addition, contemporary variations of SUE have yet to be tested with both innocent and guilty suspects. The present research addresses these gaps, and in doing so will: (1) shed light on which SUE variation results in the greatest amount of elicited information; (2) result in findings that are highly applicable to practitioners, as the present experimental methodology better mirrors real-world situations; and (3) offer research experience to underrepresented minority researchers. Overall, the present research will aid law enforcement in obtaining valuable information pertinent to accurately identifying perpetrators and efficiently solving cases. To achieve these goals, the present research will employ a cheating paradigm variation in which a research assistant pretending to be a participant prompts (or does not prompt) actual participants to cheat on a supposed "government-issued" test. This enables questioner to accuse both innocent and guilty participants of cheating, and to question them using one of four evidence disclosure methods: Early (presenting evidence before questioning), Late (basic SUE, with evidence presented after all questioning), SUE-C (presenting evidence incrementally, with statement-evidence inconsistencies being pointed out), and SUE-C/E (same as SUE-C, except suspects are required to explain any inconsistencies). Except for the Early condition, all conditions represent variations of the SUE technique. It is predicted that: (1) of all evidence disclosure tactics, SUE-C/E will result in the most diagnostic confessions; (2) all SUE variations will result in more lie indicators (i.e., statement-evidence inconsistencies), as compared to early evidence disclosure; and (3) guilty suspects will ultimately offer more incriminating details when questioned with the SUE variations than with early disclosure. Given that findings fall in line with these predictions, SUE can be advocated to law enforcement investigators as a method to help them enhance their investigations.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
- August 15, 2018 - July 31, 2022
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- Evans, Jacqueline Principal Investigator