False Confessions and Polygraphs

False Confessions and Polygraphs

Seven Dimensions
Updated Apr 16, 2020

Over a quarter of wrongful convictions are based on people’s false confessions. Professor Robert Feldman outlines why this happens and how polygraphs don’t work.

In wrongful convictions, over 25% are based on false confessions. Professor Robert Feldman and Eve Ash discuss the strange fact that people sometimes confess to something they didn’t do. This is because of high anxiety levels, which create an impression of holding something back. Polygraphs are not infallible lie detectors: there are too many false positives and negatives, but police still use them. Kassin and Kiechel conducted a study which accused students of causing a computer crash. 100% confessed to having done it, although they hadn’t, while 35% confabulated details. We can be convinced of things we didn’t do.

This program is one of the Insights and Strategies Series, featuring psychologist Eve Ash interviewing a range of experts and business leaders who share their experiences and practical strategies for achieving best practice.

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Business Outcomes

This program is designed to help people learn more about human behavior and why people lie. It also provides an interesting exploration of wrongful convictions, false confessions, misidentification by witnesses and polygraphs.