Why are people of colour at a higher risk of falsely confessing? Answers from the psychology of prejudice?


  • Nils Karl Reimer




Almost three in four wrongful conviction cases concern defendants of colour – a statistic which seems to be partly explained by the greater number of false confessions cases in this group. Among them, there are five adolescents who spent many years in prison after falsely confessing to a brutal rape in New York’s Central Park. Why were they and why are other people of colour at a higher risk of falsely confessing? To answer this question, I discuss approaches from the psychology of prejudice and their possible relationship to false confessions. Can stereotypes about Black men as criminals increase the pressure on suspects of colour in police interrogation? Do stereotypes make suspects of colour appear more nervous in interrogation? Do White police officers tend to assume the guilt of suspects of another race? Based on evidence from psychological studies, I evaluate in how far each of these approaches explains the overrepresentation of people of colour in false confession cases.


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