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Such a question distorts the memory thereby tricking the person into answering in a specific way.(intro paragraph)


Considerable attention has been devoted to suggestive questions and its effects.[1] In another research, Forensic Psychologist Gisli Gudjonsson, using his invention namely the Gudjonsson suggestibility scale to figure out whether all the big five personality traits are equally influenced by suggestive questioning, found that there is no relationship between personality and suggestibility.[2] However, the individual differences approach he coined explained, that suggestibility depends on the extent to which people are able to stick to their claims, and the accuracy of their response under the anxiety induced by an interrogative session.

Focus on Children[edit]

"One aspect of child memory which is very relevant to the question of giving testimony...involves the possible effect of suggestion on memory."[3] The late French psychologist, Alfred Binet, about a 100 years ago, found that suggestive questions negatively influence the certainty of children's answers. This idea has been confirmed by more recent studies, which found that children become less impressionable as they mature.[1] And so, the plausibility of information is even more questionable when suggestive questioning is used to derive information or assumed facts from children, whose already fragile memories are more vulnerable to distortions than that of their adult counterparts.[3] The interviews carried out during the McMartin preschool trial of the 1980s provide explicit examples of how questions that are configured in certain ways may induce children to respond with answers that are anticipated by the interviewer.

Case studies[edit]

In the 1998 murder case of one Stephanie Crowe, detectives, using suggestive questioning techniques forced a confession from Michael, her brother and one other friend; both of whom they suspected, and without any evidence, stabbed her to death in her sleep. Apparently, they convinced him that he had a dissociative identity disorder. However, after watching a tape showing the child undergo 40 hours of chronic "Psychological torture", Richard Leo, a criminologist and social psychologist at the University of California, Irvine was convinced that confessing was a last resort. "If you wanted a lab experiment designed to prove how to bully suspects into falsely confessing to crimes, couldn't do any better than what took place in that Escondido police interview room."[4]

The McMartin preschool trial of the 1980s was a sexual abuse case entailing seven teachers, who were accused of sexually abusing hundreds of children for the period of a decade. Investigation started in 1983 and lasted until the 1990s; therefore remembered as one of the most costly and elongated trials in the history of the State of California. However, none of the accused were convicted since the accusations against them were confirmed through questionable means. Interviews of the case included various examples, or scenarios where interviewers used suggestive questioning techniques to pressure children into affirming the claims against the teachers. Some suggestive questioning techniques applied by interviewers of the case involved suggesting information that the interviewee never brought up in the interview, and telling the interviewee about the statements made by other people in order to pressure the him/her to comply. Some of the statements made in the interview are as follows: "We know about the game [Naked Movie Star] cause we just have had...twenty kids told us about that game...Do u think if I ask you a question, you could put your thinking cap on and you might remember, Mr Alligator [a puppet]?"[1]


Suggestive questions may take the form of a negatively constructed tense;that is, those questions that include contractions such as didn't, shouldn't, wasn't etc. For example........ Also, questions that are structured in this fashion may hint the respondent on the answer desired by the speaker, and as a result, the possibility of the answer being in conflict with the respondent's intention is increased.[3] Suggestive questions may appear in other forms as well. For example, in the McMartin Preschool case, a child was asked by an interviewer, "Can you remember the naked pictures?" even though nothing of the sort had been mentioned to lead to that question.[1] The use of the article "the" indicates that those pictures, as a matter of fact, exist even if they do not; this could easily prompt a false confession.


  1. ^ a b c d Empty citation (help) 
  2. ^ Drake, Kim (2010). "The psychology of interrogative suggestibility: A vulnerability during police interview". Elsevier 49: 683–688. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.06.005. 
  3. ^ a b c Empty citation (help) 
  4. ^ Humes, Edward (Oct. 27, 2004). "Experts say false confessions come from leading questions, young suspects, high-pressure interrogations". The Orange County Register. Retrieved 28 March 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)