Suggestibility and Compliance

Vitally important to an understanding of why false confessions can often prove so incriminating is an awareness of the theory of interrogative suggestibility (54,55). At the heart of the theory is the way leading questions can produce distorted responses from suspects because they are phrased to suggest the expected response. Through this process people can come to accept a piece of postevent information and incorporate it into their memory, thus appearing to have "special knowledge" about the alleged offense. This special knowledge may seriously mislead the police and the courts to assume the suspect's guilt erroneously. Suggestibility correlates with anxiety, lack of assertiveness, poor self-esteem, and low intelligence (56).

Compliance refers to the tendency of people to obey the instructions of others when they don't really want to, because they are either overeager to please or simply unable to resist the pressure (57). The traits of both suggestibility and compliance are relevant to the issue of false confessions (58).

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