Date of Award
Master of Science
Theorists have speculated (Kassin et al., 2010), and experimental research has confirmed (Madon et al., 2012), that suspects have a propensity to make short-sighted confession decisions; that is, they have a tendency to discount distal consequences when making their confession decisions. The current research examined two potential causes of this effect - the certainty of distal consequences and the temporal distance of distal consequences. In the experiment, participants (N = 209) were interviewed about 20 prior criminal and unethical behaviors and were required to admit or deny each one. Participants' denials and admissions were paired with both a proximal consequence and a distal consequence respectively. Results indicated that both the certainty and temporal distance of the distal consequence influenced participants' tendency to make short-sighted admission decisions: The less certain and more temporally remote the distal consequence was perceived, the less impact it exerted on participants' admissions. These results, especially the effect of the distal consequence's certainty, may be particularly relevant to understanding false confessions. Because innocent suspects tend to believe that their innocence will protect them, they may be more inclined to perceive future punishment as an improbable event, which may consequently increase their risk of confession. The effect of temporal distance suggests that, in actual police interrogation situations, suspects may be inclined to discount future punishment when making their confession decisions precisely because that punishment is less proximal than the immediate, aversive consequences that they are having to contend with during the interrogation.
Yang, Yueran, "How uncertain future consequences exacerbate a propensity among suspects to make short-sighted confession decisions" (2012). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 12591.