The impact of recanted false confession types and clarified instructions on jury decision making

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A substantial amount of research has been dedicated to understanding how and why innocent people confess to crimes that they did not commit. Unfortunately, false confessions occur even with the

A substantial amount of research has been dedicated to understanding how and why innocent people confess to crimes that they did not commit. Unfortunately, false confessions occur even with the best possible interrogation practices. This study aimed to examine how different types of false confession (voluntary, compliance, and internalization) and the use of jury instructions specific to confessions influences jurors’ verdicts. A sample of 414 participants read a criminal trial case summary that presented one of four reasons why the defendant falsely confessed followed by either the standard jury instruction for confessions or a clarified version. Afterwards, participants completed several items assessing the perceived guilt of the defendant, their attitudes on confessions in general, and their opinions on jury instructions. Although the three confession reasons did not differ among one another, jurors who were given no explanation for the false confession tended to more harshly judge the defendant. Further, the clarified jury instructions did not influence the participants’ judgments. Future research should focus on how expert witness testimonies affect verdicts regarding each type of false confession reason and whether the media may influence a juror’s knowledge of factors that could provoke false confessions.