• The variable influence of confession inconsistencies: How factual errors (but not contradictions) reduce belief in suspect guilt

      Holt, Glenys A.; Palmer, Matthew A.; University of Chester; University of Tasmania
      Wrongful conviction statistics suggest that jurors pay little heed to the quality of confession evidence when making verdict decisions. However, recent research indicates that confession inconsistencies may sometimes reduce perception of suspect guilt. Drawing on theoretical frameworks of attribution theory, correspondence bias, and the story model of juror decision-making, we investigated how judgments about likely guilt are affected by different types of inconsistencies: self-contradictions (Experiment 1) and factual errors (Experiment 2). Crucially, judgments of likely guilt of the suspect were reduced by factual errors in confession evidence, but not by contradictions. Mediation analyses suggest that this effect of factual errors on judgments of guilt is underpinned by the extent to which mock-jurors generated a plausible, alternative explanation for why the suspect confessed. These results indicate that not all confession inconsistencies are treated equally; factual errors might cause suspicion about the veracity of the confession, but contradictions do not.