Unmaking a murderer: behaviour sequence analysis of false confessions

David A. Keatley, Abbie Marono, David D. Clarke

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


The causes of false confessions are an important issue in legal studies and forensics. Recent advances in DNA testing have increased the number of proven false confessions; however, there are probably many cases without scientific evidence to refute the guilty verdict. The current research provides a novel approach to understand the structure and process of police interrogation techniques, in the United States behaviour sequence analysis. This method allows complex interactions in interrogations to be broken down and the progression of techniques analysed clearly. A case study is provided of an individual who confessed to a series of very serious crimes. The results show that several psychological techniques, such as leading statements, pressure, empathy, and inducements, are used, in increasing frequency, which resulted in the suspect's confession. This research provides support for behaviour sequence analysis as a new method to understand the structure of police interrogations and how psychological techniques may be used to gain false confessions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-436
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number3
Early online date31 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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