Research shows good cop beats bad cop

Feb 02, 2011

Even the most horrible criminals feel guilt, and according to new research from the University of Montreal, playing on that sentiment might be a good way to extract a confession. In order to gain a better understanding of why and how criminals admit to their crimes, Michel St-Yves, a forensic psychologist and lecturer, and lead author Nadine Deslauriers-Varin, both of the university's School of Criminology, worked with 221 prisoners from a federal penitentiary, analyzing the conditions under which they did or didn't confess.

The study findings highlighted the predominant role of police evidence over and above other factors the researchers considered. When evidence is strong, the confession rate increases independently of sociodemographic or criminological factors. However, when the police evidence is weak, the researchers found that a confession is more likely if there are about the crime, if the suspect is single at the time of the , has prior convictions and was convicted for a more serious crime.

Other recent studies also show the "relationship" is an important factor during the interrogation, and that the police interrogator's attitude plays a significant role. "Confessions mostly rely on how the interrogation is conducted and it's nothing short of an art form," St-Yves said. "It's an art that must be practiced with finesse seeing as the accused is never obliged to answer questions and that all coercive methods or promises used by police will eventually be rejected by the courts." St-Yves believes criminals feel the urge to confess for various reasons: to unburden themselves, to blame a third party, to make their crime more acceptable in the eyes of others or their own eyes, or in the hope of obtaining a lighter sentence.

Among the prisoners who volunteered for the study, 45 percent had confessed to their crime, which is slightly lower than the 50 percent confession rate concluded by other studies. This slightly weaker percentage could be due to the fact that the study was undertaken in a penitentiary environment, and by the fact that in addition to their prior criminal record, the subjects of the research had received federal sentences for very serious crime. The confession rate of first-time offenders was 80 percent and 51 percent for repeat offenders.

St-Yves will continue his research in the hope that more scientific interrogation methods will result in a more effective and efficient justice system. The researcher also noted that the use of cameras in interrogation rooms is a good thing as it limits coercion, and in terms of transparency for the courts, it's the best possible way to witness just how the interrogation was undertaken. The team's findings were published in Justice Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: Change 'authoritarian' football culture to produce future stars, says research

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study examines correlation between race and police force size

Oct 01, 2007

Empirical studies have long shown that crime rate and budget alone do not account for the size of an area’s police force. Police forces tend to be larger in areas where blacks comprise a larger percentage, and many sociologists ...

Recommended for you

Male-biased tweeting

9 hours ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

10 hours ago

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

COCO
not rated yet Feb 03, 2011
don't forget - reams of data will be soon become pulbic record on the success of water-boarding and other tortures as practiced by the US military - and they say 911 had no real value - HA!

More news stories

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Math modeling handbook now available

Math comes in handy for answering questions about a variety of topics, from calculating the cost-effectiveness of fuel sources and determining the best regions to build high-speed rail to predicting the spread ...