Lay Perceptions of a Real Interrogation: The Effects of Minimization and the False Evidence Ploy

Angela M. Zara, Butler Univeristy


False confessions have proven to be a leading factor in wrongful convictions in the United States. Generally, even in the face of exculpatory evidence, a confession is considered the most convincing aspect of an individual's guilt. Past research shows that certain police interrogation tactics can lead both guilty and innocent people to confess. This study evaluates how the layperson perceives two interrogation tactics, minimization and the false evidence ploy (a form of maximization), when used in an interrogation. This research demonstrates how the use of these tactics may influence potential jurors' perceptions of interrogations and the consequent suspect outcomes such as sentencing severity, voluntariness of a confession, and commission likelihood or guilt. Results indicated that scientific false evidence, but not testimonial false evidence, affected perceptions of the suspect such as guilt and intentionality in committing the crime. Additionally, scientific false evidence affected perceptions of crime severity and the strength of evidence against the suspect. Results also revealed that accident minimization, but not the religious forgiveness theme, implied leniency in sentencing. Overall, results demonstrated that different themes of minimization and the false evidence ploy did not produce the same effects on perceptions of suspect outcomes and should continue to be researched individually in order to fully comprehend their implications.