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Confessions may be one of the most powerful weapons a prosecutor could be handed in the courtroom. In fact, jurors almost always convict defendants that have confessed. (Costanzo & Krauss, 2012). However, the importance placed upon confessions has been questioned. According to Appleby et al.'s (2011) empirical analysis on confessions "Although confessions from perpetrators help to solve crimes in an efficient manner, the false confessions of innocents are a known contributing factor in approximately 25% of all DNA exoneration cases." Many factors contribute to this, including certain interrogation techniques, extreme pressure and distress, the presence of leading questions, and age and intelligence of the accused. Another factor that has been examined is the suggestibility of the accused. The higher the level of suggestibility of a person, the more likely they are to take responsibility for something that he or she did not do (Redlich & Goodman, 2003). There has also been evidence to suggest that there may be gender differences in suggestibility, though the research in this area is limited (Calicchia & Santostefano, 2004). The purpose of this study is to further examine the possibility of gender differences in suggestibility and how this may relate to false confessions. There were 39 participants, 17 M and 22 F. Each participant was led to believe that s/he was having his/her heart rate monitored by another participant, a confederate, while they are administered the suggestibility scale. The participant will then switch places with the confederate and attempt to monitor his/her heart rate. The participant will then be led to believe that s/he pushed a wrong button and slightly shocked the other person. The participant will then be asked to sign a form stating that s/he did indeed press the button, and then afterwards fill out a scale reporting how much he/she believes the confession is true. Suggestibility scores will be recorded, as will whether or not the person "confessed", and the self-reported level of belief. It is hypothesized that females will be significantly more likely to falsely confess, and that suggestibility will indeed play a part in the gender differences.
Welker, Leah Elizabeth, "Shock Value of False Confessions: Gender Differences in Interrogative Suggestibility, as They Pertain to the Elicitation of False Confessions" (2013). Undergraduate Honors Theses. 42.