Truth and Deception in Informants' Accounts of Criminal Admissions

Date created: 
Criminal admissions

Informants who report admissions to crime can be powerful and dangerous players in the criminal justice system. Some informants, such as jailhouse informants, are considered deceitful, in part because they can receive incentives to report criminal admissions. However, little research has examined the nature of information that informants provide. In particular, no recent published research has examined whether there are valid behavioural cues that distinguish deceptive from truthful informants. In addition, no published study to date has explored whether informants’ reports and demeanours are affected by the incentives that they receive. Participants in this study either did or did not hear a criminal admission and then were interviewed one week later about details of the admission they had allegedly heard. Some participants were offered an incentive to report the criminal admission in a way that appeared accurate and forthcoming. The results of this study suggest that there may be behavioural cues emitted during the reporting of criminal admissions that distinguish truthful from deceptive informants. However, the direction of differences for some cues may deviate from other types of witnesses to crime. In addition, the findings of this study indicate that being offered an incentive may induce informants to emit cues during the reporting of criminal admissions that make them appear more truthful, regardless of whether or not they are actually telling the truth. The findings of this study raise concerns about whether informants’ honesty should be assessed in the same way as other witnesses, and about potentially negative consequences of offering incentives to informants in exchange for their reports of criminal admissions.

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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
Senior supervisor: 
J. Don Read
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.