Academic department under which the project should be listed

Psychology

Faculty Sponsor Name

Jennifer Willard

Project Type

Poster

Abstract (250 words maximum)

False confessions, which are admissions of guilt of a criminal act by an innocent individual, are a leading cause of wrongful convictions (Drizin & Leo, 2004). Researchers have primarily focused on identifying coercive elements of interrogations and confessor characteristics that increase the likelihood of false confessions, rather than examining potential relationship factors between the perpetrator and the false confessor. This pilot study examined whether Russano et al.’s (2005) cheating paradigm could be modified to include a participant-confederate who is either a stranger or a friend. Participant-confederates engage in a staged cheating incident and then send a plea to innocent-participants asking them to falsely admit to cheating. Innocent participants are then confronted by researchers. Participants (N = 36) were randomly assigned to be a participant-confederate or innocent-participant. Of the 18 sessions, data from five sessions were eliminated due to participant stress, technology issues, or suspicion. Of the remaining 13 sessions, nine included strangers and four included friends. Only one participant falsely confessed in the stranger sessions, whereas two participants falsely confessed in the friend sessions. Results suggest that Russano et al.’s cheating paradigm can be successfully adapted using participant-confederates; thus, allowing researchers to examine the role of relationships in false confessions.

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The Use of Participant-Confederates in Examining Behavior Among the Falsely Accused: A Pilot Study

False confessions, which are admissions of guilt of a criminal act by an innocent individual, are a leading cause of wrongful convictions (Drizin & Leo, 2004). Researchers have primarily focused on identifying coercive elements of interrogations and confessor characteristics that increase the likelihood of false confessions, rather than examining potential relationship factors between the perpetrator and the false confessor. This pilot study examined whether Russano et al.’s (2005) cheating paradigm could be modified to include a participant-confederate who is either a stranger or a friend. Participant-confederates engage in a staged cheating incident and then send a plea to innocent-participants asking them to falsely admit to cheating. Innocent participants are then confronted by researchers. Participants (N = 36) were randomly assigned to be a participant-confederate or innocent-participant. Of the 18 sessions, data from five sessions were eliminated due to participant stress, technology issues, or suspicion. Of the remaining 13 sessions, nine included strangers and four included friends. Only one participant falsely confessed in the stranger sessions, whereas two participants falsely confessed in the friend sessions. Results suggest that Russano et al.’s cheating paradigm can be successfully adapted using participant-confederates; thus, allowing researchers to examine the role of relationships in false confessions.