Deception is a common part of life. Every person has lied and
been lied to. One major problem facing law enforcement and psychologists is
that individuals not only lie but do so unintentionally. False confessions may
be given by a suspect due to his/her high rating of interrogative
Interrogative Suggestibility has been
defined as an influence of one person to another person, often within a social
interaction where people come to accept an idea or message communicated during
formal questioning. Interrogative suggestibility can also be a serious
psychological vulnerability during police interrogation (Gudjonsson 1989;
Gudjonsson, 2003). In result of this definition, five interrelated components
of interrogative suggestibility have been identified: (a) Suggestibility
usually occurs within a closed social interaction; (b) it includes a
questioning process; (c) there is a suggestive stimulus which generally takes
the form of a “leading question”; (d) an acceptance of suggestive
stimulus is indicated; and (e) It involves a behavioural response by the
individual that lets the interviewer know that the suggestive stimuli have been
suggestibility is measured using the
Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale (GSS) and is widely used within applied
forensic science and academic settings. The purpose of the scale is to measure
effectively the vulnerability of people to be influenced suggestively and/or to
give an inaccurate statement when being interviewed (Gudjonsson, 1997). The use
of the GSS has been effective in providing data to the court regarding an
individual’s predisposition to provide false information during interrogation.
This is very important when the trier of law is assessing one’s information as
being authentic and true. This measure also determines whether a defendant or
witness willingly accepted the Miranda
rights waiver (Gudjonsson,1997).
Development of Gudjonsson’s Suggestibility
The first form of the GSS scale was
developed in 1984. There is a fixed process to the GSS which is as follows:
1) A fictional
story is read to defendant/witness.
individual is then asked to recollect the key elements of the story (without
participant is then asked 20 questions (yes/no only) relating to the story.
4) 15 of the
follow-up questions are misleading questions and the other five questions are
non-leading questions which are used to assess memory ability.
Roughly, 50 minutes after the recall
each individual is then notified that they have made several errors regardless
of whether mistakes were in fact made and are permitted to go over the
questions once more and try to be more accurate, this is referred to as ‘shift
score. (Drake, 2010).
Psychologists have taken I upon
themselves to assess whether Victims and witnesses are capable of giving
evidence. Currently, in England, witness mental capacity can be regarded in the
context of two permissible frameworks: Part 1, the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and Section 53
of the Youth Justice and Criminal
Evidence Act 1999. Both acts are relevant when it comes to giving valid and
reliable evidence during interviews. Part 1 of the mental act 2005 primarily
focuses on the lack of witness/victim capacity and that each individual must be
assumed to have the mental capacity and make decisions unless proven otherwise.
The latter of the two applies to those of any age, including very young
children. Section 53 (Subsection 3) of the
Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence act draws upon competence and being
able to give evidence in court proceedings. Furthermore, if a person is unable
to understand and answer questions put before them by the court, then they may
be deemed as lacking capacity and unfit to give evidence in legal proceedings.
When interviewing defendants police
officers will need to be made aware of each suspect psychological vulnerability
which may in some cases render the suspect’s information unreliable or
misleading (Gudjonsson, 2003). Four main categories for the assessment of
psychological vulnerabilities have been identified as; (a) Mental illness (b)
abnormal mental state (c) cognitive functioning and (d) personality traits.
These have been categorized in the table below.
monitoring-being able to distinguish between memories for events that have
happened and events that have been imagined.
reduced Intellectual capacity
ability to recall memories
understanding of their rights as a suspect
and acceptance without protest, and the act of giving tacit assent.
to understand the implications of their given answers
to compulsively lie
tendency to fabricate memories
sympathy for the consequences of falsifying statements.
The most delicate and difficult task
for psychologists is to identify the vulnerabilities relevant to an
individual’s case. Gudjonsson and MacKeith (1997) have raised issues about how vulnerabilities
may be misinterpreted when viewed separately to other important factors (e.g.,
using a high score on a suggestibility test to challenge the consistency of reports
made in interviews when in fact the confessions were made without suggestibility
in police interviews). In England, psychologists may instruct police officers
about susceptibilities before the police interview in order to guarantee fairness