Suspect Suggestibility During Police Interrogations
Previous research on police interrogations have operated under the premise that as an interrogation persists, a suspect’s resistance to interrogative influence steadily declines. However, addressing the issue from the perspective of a stress and coping framework suggests that the threat of police interrogation may cause a suspect’s resistance to initially spike, similar to the flight or fight response, and only afterwards might a suspect’s resistance begin to decline. This research tested the first half of this prediction by examining whether the threat of police interrogation increases a suspect’s resistance to interrogative influence. Participants (N = 364) were made to be either guilty or innocent of cheating on a laboratory task and either accused or not accused of academic misconduct by the experimenter. The accusation manipulation was intended to vary the threat of the situation. Participants’ resistance to interrogative influence was assessed with a measure of suggestibility. The results supported the hypothesis by showing that participants who were accused of cheating exhibited less suggestibility than participants who were not accused. In other words, participants for whom the situation was more threatening showed greater resistance to interrogative influence than did participants for whom the situation was less threatening.