Friday, March 13, 2009

Cognitive disability and false confession to crimes

Adults and children with cognitive disorders are vulnerable in many obvious ways, but also in some less obvious ways.

All memories are highly suggestible, but persons with cognitive disorders are particularly prone to memory distortion. They may feel innocent when they are guilty, but, perhaps more significantly, feel guilty when they are innocent ...
When an Innocent Confesses to a Crime: Scientific American Podcast

Confession of a crime is considered highly persuasive in court. It seems inherently honest. Why would an innocent confess guilt? It appears counterintuitive to basic human self-interest.

And yet, innocents do confess, and studies have shown that they are highly persuasive, even when jurors know they were coerced. According to the Innocence Project, false confessions contributed to 25% of wrongful convictions in the U.S. in 2008.

I'm stretching a bit here, the research doesn't say that low IQ and special needs children and adults are particularly vulnerable to false confession. But do you doubt it?

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