If you’re hooked on Serial (and have already listened to today’s new episode) then you might be interested in an interview we did about the science of false confessions.
There has been discussion about Jay’s interrogation and the power of eyewitness testimony—even without physical evidence.
Listen to the interview with journalist Doug Starr:
On why people give false confessions:
“First of all, there’s a group of people who confess falsely to something because there’s something wrong with them. More than 200 people confessed to the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. … But there are external reasons as well. … If you’re held in a room and you think there’s no way out, but you’re sure that the justice system will eventually exonerate you, you might actually confess just to get out of the situation. When you’re in a situation where [your] denial is batted away no matter what you say and they start lowering the barrier of confession … it becomes the easy way out. Interestingly, naive people, with faith in the justice system, tend to confess more because they’re sure something will work out on the other side. The trouble is confession trumps everything. Even physical evidence will bend once somebody’s confessed because confessions are so compelling.”