Date of Award
Confession documentaries frequently interview the attorneys and relatives of the wrongfully convicted—but where are the confessions experts? Does the information conveyed in these interviews matter? These questions are becoming increasingly important as the popularity of documentaries, specifically documentaries about false confessions, is on the rise. However, the effect that documentaries have on jury-eligible citizens’ perceptions of confessions evidence has yet to be a topic of intense study. In this experiment, 271 participants watched a false confessions documentary interview of either a confessions expert who spoke about psychological research, the suspect’s defense attorney who spoke about their experience with confessions, or the suspect’s sister who gave a personal account of the case. After, participants read an interrogation transcript that included either a mild or severe crime and answered questions about their perceptions of that interrogation. I predicted that participants who watched the expert would be the most skeptical of confessions evidence. In general, the documentary had little effect on individuals’ perceptions of the interrogation, but those who watched the expert were more likely to correctly define the definition of the interrogation tactic discussed in the interview clip. Overall, this shows that individuals can remember what they learn from documentary interviews, but they may not be able to apply that information to other interrogations.
Hussey, Katherine, "The Effects of Documentary Interviews on Perceptions of Interrogations" (2021). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 586.