Why people waive their Miranda rights: The power of innocence

  • Kassin S
  • Norwick R
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Abstract

In a laboratory experiment, 72 participants who were guilty or innocent of a mock theft were apprehended for investigation. Motivated to avoid prosecution and trial, they were confronted by a neutral, sympathetic, or hostile male "detective" who sought a waiver of their Miranda rights. Later, 72 other participants watched videotapes of these sessions and answered questions about the detective and suspect. Strikingly, results showed that although the detective's demeanor had no effect, participants who were truly innocent were significantly more likely to sign a waiver than those who were guilty. Naively believing in the power of their innocence to set them free, most waived their rights even in the hostile detective condition, where the risk of interrogation was apparent. The conceptual and policy implications of these results are discussed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Confessions
  • Innocence
  • Interrogation
  • Miranda
  • Waiver

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Authors

  • Saul M. Kassin

  • Rebecca J. Norwick

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