||The Language of Confession, Interrogation, and Deception
||Roger W. Shuy
||Sage Publications, ©1998
2455 Teller Rd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
It is now generally accepted in the scientific community and the justice system that the way in which people are questioned is an important variable in understanding the meaning of any statement elicited by questioning. This applies to the questioning of children as well as adults. This 205-page book is a suggested procedure for understanding the language used both by those asking questions and by those answering. It will assist in determining the weight to be given to statements made in response to questioning. False confessions are a fact, and the overinterpretation of what looks like a confession is a frequent behavior of law enforcement and prosecutors.
There is a clear distinction made between interviewing and interrogation. In dealing with child abuse, both social workers and police, those most often doing the questioning, are interrogating people, not interviewing. The book offers a useful summary of the methods of interrogation that are used. It includes references to the training manuals and the classes which teach interrogators what to do. The research evidence cited supports a conclusion that psychological interrogation methods are a powerful means of inducing confessions. But whether or not the confessions are reliable and accurate must also be examined.
The major benefit of the book is the outline of a systematic method for examining the language used to produce a reasonable case for accepting or rejecting the statements. There are also suggestions as to how to arrange such material for presentation to a jury or fact
finder. It essentially consists of counting expressions, words, and the frequencies of specific content.
The final section is a series of suggestions for improving the way questioning is conducted to avoid the known behaviors that can introduce error and lead to putting undue trust in verbal statements elicited under coercive or leading pressure. The suggestions are in the direction of making questioning more like an interview, less threatening, and less coercive. They appear reasonable but would need to be studied systematically to determine their effectiveness.
The book ends with a two pages of references and a short index.
Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Northfield, Minnesota.