On the road (to admission): Engaging suspects with minimization
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law
© 2019 American Psychological Association. The concept of minimization has been a focal point of research on police interrogations in part because of its widespread use and endorsement in interrogation training. Minimization, however, refers to a wide range of specific techniques, and research into it has tended to focus almost exclusively on suspect admissions at the expense of other suspect behaviors. Our purpose in the present study was to scrutinize and closely examine minimization as a concept and an interrogation method. Using a sample of approximately 45 hr of recordings of American police interrogations of suspects later convicted of serious, violent crime, we operationally defined and measured three minimization techniques-appealing to the suspect's self-interest, appealing to the suspect's conscience, and offering rationalizations-and examined them in relation to three "suspect engagement" measures-crying, making excuses, or seeking information-and how each were related to suspect admissions. Descriptively, the minimization techniques were among the most commonly observed techniques in the sample and in bivariate analyses, appealing to the suspect's conscience was related to the suspect crying and appealing to self-interest was associated with seeking information. None of the techniques was positively associated with suspect admissions, but suspect crying and making excuses were. The final mediated models showed that several minimization techniques indirectly influenced admissions through suspect engagement variables. In short, this study presents a more complete picture of the relationship between common interrogation techniques and suspect admissions. Future research should account for these and other engagement measures to fully understand interrogation as the complex phenomenon it is.
Kelly, C., Russano, M., Miller, J., & Redlich, A. (2019). On the road (to admission): Engaging suspects with minimization. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 25 (3), 166-180. https://doi.org/10.1037/law0000199