Kassin-Wrightsman method of False Confession

Last Updated: 04 July 2019

KASSIN–WRIGHTSMAN MODEL AND COGNITIVE MODEL OF FALSE CONFESSIONS


Word count: 1000 words


Essay question:  Critical analysis of the competing and contrasting theories of false confessions.


Assignment guidance: Your assignment is based on the presentation on false confession in Dropbox, and independent reading.  You can find some of the readings for this project under the dropbox. I highly recommend you to check chapter 8 on false confessions on Gudjonsson’s book in the dropbox.  For this assignment, you need to take only 2 theories of false confessions and analyze them critically (you will not have space to discuss more). You must remember to be critical, look at both sides of the argument and create a balanced perspective.


Project structure and critical analysis: The department has very specific criteria for the structure and content of the project (including specific requirements for the introduction and conclusion section of the task) and for how the writers should engage in critical discussion. Please check the attached file for the specific guidelines. Follow them closely, because these will be the main criteria on which your project is going to be evaluated.


Sample: Please find attached a sample from another module that evaluates competitive theories on crime causality. The theories that you need to use are completely different from those used in the sample, however, the sample might be helpful for you to understand better what approach you can implement for this assignment.


Introduction


According to Gudjonsson (1999, p. 690), a false confession occurs where a confessor admits to a criminal act, followed by a post-admission narrative of how and why the crime occurred. This essay the postulated Kassin-Wrightsman model (1985) that classifies false confession into voluntary, coerced, and internalized. The essay also critically analyses the claim by Gudjonsson (2004, p. 894) that false confessions arise from antecedents such as social, emotional and cognitive factors as well as long and short-term consequences. In terms of framework, this essay critically provides an overview of the theoretical frameworks, their strengths, and limitations. Where possible, comparison and contrast of the two theories are also given.


Kassin-Wrightsman Model


High-profile cases such as the Central Park Jogger case have surfaced as those that involve the conviction of the apparently innocent individuals and later exoneration (Drizin & Leo, 2004; Gudjonsson, 1992, 2003; Kassin, 1997; Kassin and Gudjonsson, 2004; Lassiter, 2004; Leo and Ofshe, 1998). This is just but one case where false confessions have led to the miscarriage of justice. Drawing upon such cases and empirical research Kassin and Wrightsman (1985) developed a classification scheme that classifies false confession into voluntary, compliant, and internalized (Kassin, 1997). Some people voluntarily make false confessions for crimes they are innocent of with no prompting from the police, more so in high-profile cases (Kassin, 1997; Gudjonsson, 2012). Still, yet, there are instances when the confessor is innocent but vulnerable at the same time and are therefore likely to give internalized false confessions (Conti, 1999).


Kassin-Wrightsman Model has been useful in forensic practice and research on confessions (Conti, 1999). Most importantly, the distinction between the internalized and compliant false confession theoretically sets the pace for research and practice (Conti, 1999). However, there is a challenge with the model in that unlike Cognitive Behaviour Model of false confessions that developed from real studies; it emerged from anecdotes and past historical cases (Davison and Forshaw, 1993). Furthermore, the model is very shallow in giving some of the antecedents and consequences of false confessions (Davison and Forshaw, 1993; Gudjonsson and Pearse, 2011).  There are instances when the threefold framework has been questioned for over-simplicity of the coerced and voluntary confessions (Davison and Forshaw, 1993).


In some cases, false confessions might be elicited by psychological, social, physiological, and behavioral factors such as mental health state, which are not well explained by the Kassin-Wrightsman model (Gudjonsson, 2012; Leo, 2009). Put simply; there is no clear distinction of what amounts to coercion in the model (Gudjonsson and Pearse, 2011). Therefore, when applying the model to false confessions, there is a need to define completely what coercion is and what it is not in the context of the study in question (Kassin and Gudjonsson, 2004; Leo, 2009; Kassin et al., 2010). As a solution to the problem, there is a need to increase the classification windows of false confessions as compliant and internalized confessions as they are do not take into account all aspects of coercion (Kassin et al., 2010; Leo, 2009).


Cognitive Behaviour Model of False Confessions


The rationale of the Cognitive Behaviour model is that the propensity of a false confession is determined by the antecedents and consequences of providing the confession (Houston, Meissner, and Evans, 2014; Gudjonsson, 2012). The suspects under interrogation often consider short and long-term effects of antecedents such as emotional distress, situational factors, and social isolation just to mention a few, to inform their decisions to confess (Narchet, Meissner, and Russano, 2011). The model is very thorough in that it combines the psychological, situational, and criminological factors that might increase the chances of false confessions (Houston, Meissner, and Evans, 2014; Gudjonsson and Pearse, 2011). Therefore, the model is effective in explaining the likelihood of a false confession being motivated by a relationship between the above factors, rather than a standalone factor (Bull, 2014). Additionally, the available empirical data suggest the flexibility of the model in that it can be updated to reflect the distinctions in the internal and external factors that might influence a false confession from the innocent and the guilty alike (Bull, 2014).


Gudjonsson extends the other theories and develops his model that comprises of five elements including social, emotional, situational, cognitive, and physiologic factors. In this context, the likelihood of a false confession is based on the immediate consequences around the suspect at a deeper level; the reason why a suspect gives a false confession and as such it is considered as an optimized framework of the Kassin-Wrightsman model (Narchet, Meissner, and Russano, 2011). Consistently, the mode has been applied as a supporting framework for other theories of false and positive confessions as it provides a spontaneous explanation on how cognitive and social psychological processes role-play in the course of giving a false confession (Narchet, Meissner, and Russano, 2011).


Even so, there is little empirical research to examine the validity of the extent of the model in explaining false confession (Cherryman, 2012; Lassiter, 2004). The model is also supportive of the Reid model of false confession in that any form of psychological manipulation automatically lead to a false confession (Lassiter, 2004). In fact, the cognitive behavior model emphasizes the likelihood of a suspect responding based on manipulation by the interviewer (Kassin and Gudjonsson, 2004; Kassin et al., 2010).


Psychoanalytically, the model is plausible because a suspect might give a false confession based on their internal conflict and feelings bringing in the emotional antecedents put forth by Gudjonsson’s model (Leo, 2009; Kassin and Gudjonsson, 2004). The model draws its conclusion from field research data that elicits different research issues such as inconsistency of the findings of the field research to the ground rules (Meissner and Russano, 2003). Authentically, this alludes to the fact that there is a need for more empirical research to support the facts of the cognitive behavior model (Lassiter, 2004; Meissner and Russano, 2003; Gudjonsson 2010). There is also no explanation on the propensity of the minors making false confessions based on the tenets of the model. This is despite the research by Gudjonsson (2010) revealing that young suspects have a higher propensity of making false confessions based on the situational, emotional, and cognitive factors compared to their adult counterparts.


Conclusion


In sum, it is illustrative from the discussion above that even though there is the possibility of classifying false confession using the Kassin-Wrightsman method, the Cognitive Behaviour Model gives a deeper insight of false confessions. This is to say that the latter complements the former in understanding the conditions and factors that elicit false confessions from suspects. Even so, the Cognitive Behaviour Model needs to be refined with empirical studies and likely results to mask its limitations as it is a more exhaustive model that combines most of the theories of false confessions giving a better understanding. Conclusively, there is a link between antecedents and consequences in determining the likelihood of false classification. Through understanding, the two Kassin-Wrightsman model becomes strengthened to explain the origination of false confessions.


Reference List


Bull, R. (2014). Investigative interviewing. 4th ed. London: Springer.


Cherryman, J. (2012). Police Interrogations and False Confessions: Current Research, Practice, and Policy Recommendations edited by G. Daniel Lassiter and Christian A. Meissner. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 17(1), pp.192-193.


Conti, R. (1999). The Psychology of False Confessions. The Journal of Credibility Assessment and Witness Psychology, 2(1), pp.14-36.


Davison, S., and Forshaw, D. (1993). Retracted confessions: through opiate withdrawal to a new conceptual framework. Medicine, Science and the Law, 35, pp.285-290.


Drizin, S., and Leo, R. (2004). The problem of false confessions in the post-DNA world. North Carolina Law Review, 82, pp.891– 1007.


Gudjonsson, G. (2010). Psychological vulnerabilities during police interviews. Why are they important? Legal and Criminological Psychology, 15(2), pp.161-175.


Gudjonsson, G. (2012). False Confessions and Correcting Injustices. New England Law Review, 46(689), pp.689-710.


Gudjonsson, G. and Pearse, J. (2011). Suspect Interviews and False Confessions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(1), pp.33-37.


Houston, K., Meissner, C. and Evans, J. (2014). Psychological Processes Underlying True and False Confessions. Investigative Interviewing, pp.19-34.


Kassin, S. (1997). The psychology of confession evidence. American Psychologist, 52(3), pp.221-233.


Kassin, S. (2008). False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications for Reform. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(4), pp.249-253.


Kassin, S. and Gudjonsson, G. (2004). The psychology of confession evidence: A review of the literature and issues. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, pp.35-69.


Kassin, S., Drizin, S., Grisso, T., Gudjonsson, G., Leo, R. and Redlich, A. (2010). Police-induced confessions: Risk factors and recommendations. Law and Human Behavior, 34(1), pp.3-38.


Lassiter, G. (2004). Interrogations, confessions, and entrapment. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.


Leo, R. (2009). False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 37(3), pp.372-343.


Leo, R. and Ofshe, R. (1998). The Consequences of False Confessions: Deprivations of Liberty and Miscarriages of Justice in the Age of Psychological Interrogation. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973), 88(2), p.429.


Meissner, C., and Russano, M. (2003). The Psychology of Interrogations and False Confessions: Research and Recommendations. The Canadian Journal of Police & Security Services, 1(1), pp.53-64.


Narchet, F., Meissner, C. and Russano, M. (2011). Modeling the influence of investigator bias on the elicitation of true and false confessions. Law and Human Behavior, 35(6), pp.452-465.


 


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