The danger of innocence: common sense beliefs and misconceptions about false confessions

The primary purpose of this dissertation is to investigate common sense beliefs and misconceptions about false confessions, their impact on false confessions elicited during interrogations, and the risks they constitute for innocent suspects. With this in mind, the research described in this thesis addressed the following issues:

  1. common sense beliefs and police practices about confession-related legal issues;
  2. how misbeliefs about false confessions pose a risk for innocent suspects;
  3. the relationship between people’s beliefs and their behavior during police custody.

This thesis entails eight chapters. Apart from the first two chapters - a case example and general introduction, respectively - , the seventh chapter (describing an avenue for future research), and the last chapter (a general summary, discussion, and con- clusion), this thesis is divided in two main parts. Part one, which includes Chapter 3 and 4, addresses the following issues: What are lay peoples’ beliefs about legal is- sues related to false confessions? (Chapter 3). And what are common practices and beliefs of European police investigators (Chapter 4)? Part two consists of Chapters 5 and 6. Chapter 5 addresses the issue of whether there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behavior of suspects in custody. Specifically, it investigates the relation- ship between predicted and actual behavior regarding suspects’ rights to remain silent. While Chapter 6 explores inconsistencies between beliefs and behavior re- garding confession rates during interrogations.

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