4 Reasons False Confession Criticize the Reid Technique & 4 Truths

The Reid Technique is one of the most widely accepted techniques used by law enforcement in the US. At the same time, it receives substantial criticism. What are the reasons that many experts call the technique into question? We discuss four flaws that false confession experts find and reasons they give for them. We provide answers from those that use the technique.

The Reid Technique is flawed in that it is based on an assumption of guilt

False confession experts often testify that the Reid Technique is flawed for various reasons.

Four Critiques False Confession Experts Levy at Investigators using the Reid Technique

  1. False confession experts often bring up that using the Reid Technique means that the investigators will reach a faulty conclusion based on poor assessment of the subject’s verbal and nonverbal behavior symptoms during the investigative interview.
  2. False confession experts bring up that some research shows that investigators are not well trained for evaluating a subject’s behavior.
  3. What’s more, they go a step further to state that investigators aren’t equipped to delineate between truth and deception
  4. False confession experts believe that results from studies using college students and mock situations should speak to real life field interviews and suspect behavior. These studies show that investigators do not consistently identify whether their subjects are telling the truth or not.

Facts: The truth is that the research that false confession experts raise is research which has been done in laboratories that use students and mock crimes rather than real suspects and real scenarios. When it comes to comparing laboratory detection skills of students to the real skills of investigators, the results are far from each other. Essentially, the research provided utilizing mock settings does not produced results useful for pointing out investigator skills.

Why do Laboratory Studies NOT Produce Helpful Results

The following are important reasons to refute the critique leveled at investigators using the Reid Technique. These results are pulled from Essentials of the Reid Technique by Fred E. Inbau, John E. Reid, Joseph P. Buckley, Brian C. Jayn. To read or check out the eBook, click here.

  1. The subjects (students) had low levels of motivation to be believed (in the case of innocent subjects) or to avoid detection (in the case of guilty subjects).
  2. The interviews of the subjects were not conducted by investigators trained in interviewing criminal subjects.
  3. The studies did not employ the type of structured interview process that is commonly utilized by investigators in the field.
  4. In most studies there was no attempt to establish behavioral baselines for each subject so as to identify unique behaviors within a particular individual.
  5. The research was based on the faulty premise that there are specific behavior symptoms that are unique to truth or deception.
  6. There was little consideration given to evaluating behaviors in context. For example, whether specific nonverbal behaviors are appropriate given the verbal content of the suspect’s response, identifying the consistency of a suspect’s statements across time and with known evidence, and so on.

When researchers attempt to design studies that more closely approximate the setting of real life field interviews, detecting deception rates increase notably.

4 Truths and the Value of Design Studies that Approximate Real Life Field Interviews

Key points pulled from Clarifying Misinformation about the Reid Technique show the following four truths about both the value and effectiveness of the Reid Technique as well as the value of using design studies that approximate real life field interviews.

1. High-stake lies are detected at higher rates than low-stake lies. Police Lie Detection Accuracy: The Effect of Lie Scenario. Law and Human Behavior, 33, 6, 530–538 published February, 2009. The authors point out that:

[Their results] “suggest that police professionals perform significantly better when they are judging material that is high stakes, and therefore, more similar behaviorally to what they experience on the job. . . . The results suggest that it is a mistake to generalize from mean lie detection accuracy estimates obtained from college students. . . .”

2. Understanding the Context an Interview Takes Place in is Critical When an investigator understands the context in which an interview is taking place (for example the case facts and background information) accuracy in the assessment of a subject’s behavior symptoms greatly increases. (Blair, J., Levine, T., and Shaw, A. (2010). Content in Context Improves Deception Detection Accuracy. Human Communication Research, 36. The study demonstrated that when evaluators knew the context in which the interview took place

“they performed significantly better than chance and significantly better than 40 + years of research suggests they would. Clearly, knowledge of the environment in which deception occurs facilitates accurate deception judgments beyond what is possible based on observations of nonverbal leakage.”

3. Accuracy in detecting deception with real-life suspects is significantly higher than suggested by studies that use subject’s in a mock crime scenario. In their research paper entitled, “Detecting True Lies: Police Officers’ Ability to Detect Suspects’ Lies,” (Journal of Applied Psychology, 2004) the authors asked 99 police officers to “judge the veracity of people in real-life high-stakes situations.” The authors describe this study as:

“unique because they tested “police officers’ ability to distinguish between truths and lies in a realistic setting (during police interviews with suspects), rather than in an artificial laboratory setting.” The results were that “the “accuracy rates were higher than those typically found in deception research.

4. Training and experience in the field of behavior symptom analysis significantly increases the ability to detect true and false statements. (Strategic Use of Evidence During Police Interviews: When Training to Detect Deception Works. Law and Human Behavior, 2006 the authors report that trained interviewers:

“obtained a considerably higher deception detection accuracy rate (85.4%) than untrained interviewers.” Also see “Police Officers’ judgments of veracity, tenseness, cognitive load and attempted behavioral control in real-life police interviews,” (Psychology, Crime & Law, 2006)

Coming to a consensus about the value and effectiveness of the Reid Technique involves looking at how it is used in real life or near real life scenarios.

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