Detecting deception in police investigations: Implications for false confessions

Deborah Bradford, Jane Goodman-Delahunty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


A great deal of psychological research suggests that fact finders are unable to successfully distinguish truths from lies at levels significantly greater than chance. This article addresses the shortcomings in deception detection accuracy in forensic settings and focuses on the implications for the elicitation of false confessions and the assessment of confession evidence. In particular, we review the empirical psychological literature on detecting deception while highlighting the limitations on performance accuracy in forensic contexts. The consequences of these performance errors are discussed with reference to police interviews and the elicitation of potentially unreliable confessions. Next, this article outlines the conditions under which innocent people may falsely confess and considers the psychological factors that may mediate an individual's decision to make a false confession. The authors argue that false confessions are very persuasive and are difficult to discern from truthful confessions elicited in an investigative context. The implications for assessing the credibility of confessions and possible directions for future research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-118
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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