The process of interrogation affects consistently its outcomes because the interrogation style influences substantially the behavior of individuals questioned as well as their responses. In such a context, the modern criminal justice system pays a lot of attention to the investigation process. At the same time, there is a variety of methods of interrogation being used by investigators. Different methods may have a different impact on individuals under interrogation and their responses may differ depending on the interrogation style. In this regard, it is possible to suggest the following hypothesis
Hypothesis: Adults who are subjected to questioning by police in a misleading/non-supportive manner will provide much less accurate accounts of the crime.
Obviously, the possible impact of the interrogation style, namely the misleading/non-supportive interrogation style may affect consistently outcomes of the interrogation. In such a context, a number of questions arise among which it is possible to single out the main research question as follows:
Research question is: How does non-supportive questioning of adults who have witnessed crimes influence their suggestibility and memory accuracy?
On analyzing the procedures and basic principles of interrogations in the modern criminal justice system, it should be pointed out that they are not deprived of numerous drawbacks that were typical to interrogation practices that were widely spread in the past. At the same time, it would to estimate that modern interrogations have not made any progress at all but, what is really important to understand is the fact that the further improvements are needed. In order to improve the existing system of interrogation that is currently applied in the modern criminal justice system, it is necessary to critically evaluate modern interrogations in details.
First of all, it should be said that interrogations in the modern criminal justice system have a number of serious problems that have to be solved. In this respect, it is primarily necessary to point out the fact that innocent people are often targeted for interrogations, despite the lack of evidence of their involvement, based solely on an interview-based judgment (Ofshe and Leo, 1997, 1021). In actuality, this means that any person can be potentially interrogated even though he/she is not directly related to a case investigated. In fact, law enforcement officers can interrogate an individual only on the basis of their subjective judgment that they can make in the result of an interview in the process of investigation. Obviously, such an approach to the involvement of practically all people in the process of interrogation should be reevaluated and probably changed because an interrogation is not a very pleasant procedure and it may be really offensive for an innocent person.
Furthermore, in spite of all measures undertaken by the modern criminal justice system in order to prevent mistakes in the process of interrogation, certain modern interrogation techniques can cause innocent people to confess to crimes they did not commit (Meissner and Kassin, 2004, 137). Obviously such an approach to an investigation is absolutely unacceptable, but as long as investigators have an opportunity to push on people who are interrogated and have biased attitude to these people, the risk of such forced confessions will be very high. At the same time, it is obvious that this problem is basically inherited by the modern criminal justice system from the past, when all possible means were applied just to force an individual to confess to crime. In this respect, it is necessary to change the attitude of interrogators to their work in order to make the process of interrogation more objective.
At the same time, the modern process of interrogation is apparently a guilt-presumptive process of influence (Scheck, 2000, p.221), while, in actuality, it should be on the contrary an innocence-presumptive process of objective, unbiased interrogation. Even though modern investigators do not use “third degree” methods of the past, there is still the room for mistakes and for forcing people to make confessions to crimes they did not commit. For instance, investigators may apply a two-step approach in which an interview generates a judgment of deception, which, in turn, sets in motion an interrogation. Thus, the process of interrogation becomes a guilt-presumptive process.
In such a situation, the modern criminal justice system attempts to overcome existing problems in the process of interrogation and to make it more effective, reliable, and trustworthy new technologies are applied. For instance, in many states taping of interrogations is widely applied but, in recent years, new approaches have being used in this regard (Moston, Stephenson, and Williamson, 1992). To put it more precisely, videotaping and electronic recording of interrogation are introduced as alternatives to traditional taping. Obviously, the use of new approaches and new techniques to the process of interrogation, especially the use of videotaping and electronic recording may be very helpful since it contributes to the larger opportunities to use this material in the process of investigation in order to make a definite conclusion whether confessions made by a suspect, for instance, a reliable and trustworthy, or probably they were made under a pressure of investigators. In fact, videotaping and electronic recording of interrogation also contributes to more careful attitude of investigators to people interrogated because investigators are conscious of the fact that the way they interrogate a person is recorded in details and any kind of pressure or any action that may be interpreted as pressure on a suspect will put under a question the reliability and trustworthiness of the entire interrogation.
Meissner and Kassin focused on cognitive and behavioral aspects of interrogation and used such independent variables as age, education and occupational background of subjects. The dependent variable was the cognitive and behavioral responses of subjects to interrogation. As a result, the researchers found the close relationships between interrogation style and responses of subjects.
Moston, Stephenson, and Williamson focused on such independent variable as the type of crime being investigated. The researchers used different interrogation styles as dependent variable and found that the interrogation style and the nature of crime influence responses of subjects.
Ofshe and Leo studied the choices made by subjects in the course of interrogation. They used logical, reasonable cases as independent variables and different interrogation style as dependent variable. They found that subjects respond differently, depending on the interrogation style.
Scheck, Neufeld, and Dwyer focused on the study of subjects and their response to interrogation. The authors use age, gender, and social standing of subjects as independent variables and the interrogation style as dependent variable. As a result, they found out that responses of subjects with different background depend on the interrogation style.
In order to conduct the study of the impact of misleading/non-supportive manner of interrogation on adults, it is necessary to use experimental methods, which can help to uncover the impact of the misleading/non-supportive interrogation on responses of individuals and outcomes of interrogation. The study should involve three groups comprised of adults at the age of 21-65, of both genders and of different race, educational level, occupation, and social standing. The first group will be the test group, involved in a misleading/non-supportive interrogation. The second group will be involved in supportive/friendly interrogation. The third group will be the control group, involved in the emotionally neutral interrogation. In such a way, the three groups will help to reveal possible differences in responses and reaction of individuals on different interrogation styles. In this regard, the control group will reveal the differences and deviations from the norm. The control group will help to reveal whether the difference of the first group is substantial or not because the second group may give the contrary results just because of the difference in the interrogation style and it is the positive, supportive interrogation style that can determine the difference between the second and the first group. In such a situation, the control group will show any deviations from the norm to support results of the study and to make them more reliable.
Independent variables are age, gender, education, occupational and cultural background of subjects, whereas dependent variables are the environment in which they have to respond. To put it more precisely, the dependent variable is the supportive, or non-supportive, or neutral environment, which subjects are interrogated in. These variables are important for the adequate analysis and revelation of possible differences between responses of subjects in different situations.
Proposed analyses and discussion
The analysis of the results of the study should focus on differences in responses of individuals involved in the study to different interrogation styles. In this respect, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the researcher should focus not only on verbal responses but also on non-verbal responses to different interrogation styles. What is meant here is the fact that responses of individuals on questions in the course of interrogation may involve not only verbal means of communication but also non-verbal ones. For instance, if an individual grows nervous, he or she may start changing his or her posture, movements, and so on. In other words, an individual responds to interrogation at the non-verbal level.
However, to make proper observations concerning the non-verbal response of subjects of the study to different interrogation styles, the researcher should use audio-visual means to record the process of interrogation of each individual. Video recording of the interrogation process may be very helpful and the researcher should focus on the responses of the subjects at the non-verbal level. To maximize the effectiveness of the analysis of the non-verbal communication, the researcher can use the mute mode to view records and to make conclusions concerning the responses, either negative or positive, to the questions.
In addition, the researcher should focus on the analysis of the verbal responses of the subjects. The researcher should compare responses of the subjects from three groups and reveal differences between them. The difference in responses will define the impact of each interrogation style on responses of the subjects. In this regard, the researcher should focus on the accuracy of responses of each subject to the questions of investigators depending on the interrogation style being used. In such a way, the researcher will be able to define how the accuracy of responses differs depending on the interrogation style being used. In this regard, it is possible to presuppose that the researcher should reveal the possible negative impact of the misleading/non-supportive style. In such a way, the researcher should focus on the adequate analysis of the accuracy of analysis. On the other hand, it is important to avoid the biased, prejudiced view on the study to test the hypothesis that the interrogation of subjects in non-supportive/misleading style. Therefore, the researcher should discuss possible limitations of the study that may affect its outcomes or interfere in the process of the study. In such a way, the researcher can reach a higher degree of accuracy, reliability and validity of the study.
The expected results of the study are to reveal the dependence between supportive or non-supportive environment in the course of interrogation and accuracy of responses of subjects. In fact, the study is supposed to prove that adults feel more nervous and anxious in non-supportive environment and give inaccurate responses, whereas adults responding in supportive environment in the course of interrogation are more accurate. The study is supposed to open the way for further studies in this field to reveal factors influence the accuracy of responses of adults in the course of interrogation.
Meissner, C.A. and Kassin, S.M. (2004) “You’re guilty, so just confess!” Cognitive and behavioral confirmation biases in the interrogation room”, in D. Lassiter (ed.) Interrogations, Confessions, and Entrapment. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
Moston, S., Stephenson, G.M. and Williamson, T.M. (1992) “The effects of case characteristics on suspect behavior during questioning”, British Journal of Criminology, 32: 23–40.
Ofshe, R.J. and Leo, R.A. (1997) “The decision to confess falsely: rational choice and irrational action”, Denver University Law Review, 74: 979–1122.
Scheck, B., Neufeld, P. and Dwyer, J. (2000) Actual Innocence. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.