Date of Conferral







James Herndon


While confessions are a powerful form of evidence, innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit. Many researchers have studied false confessions through laboratory experiments with university students or by focusing on proven cases of false confession. These approaches have led many researchers to form a conceptual framework that law enforcement interrogative methods are a key cause of false confessions. A gap exists in the literature as few researchers have queried law enforcement about false confessions or consulted with officers who specialize in interrogation. For this study, a qualitative case study approach was used to explore the experiences of 13 federal law enforcement polygraph examiners who specialize in interrogation. Telephone interviews were conducted regarding their approach to criminal interrogation, their experiences with false confessions, and the circumstances when false confessions were elicited. NVivo software was used to organize the data. Common themes in interview responses were identified and reduced to a simplified format that could be understood in the context of the research questions. The themes identified that participants conduct themselves professionally, they treat criminal subjects respectfully, they avoid unethical interrogative practices, and false confessions result from individual subject characteristics and police misconduct. No participants reported eliciting a false confession. These findings suggest that false confession researchers may have a biased view of how law enforcement officers interrogate due to their overreliance on laboratory experimentation and their focus on false confession cases. This study promotes positive social change by increasing truthful confessions, decreasing false confessions, and providing a more accurate view of what occurs during real world criminal interrogations.