‘I'd Know a False Confession If I Saw One’: A Constructive Replication with Juveniles

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We report two experiments concerning the ability of laypersons to assess the credibility of confessions given by incarcerated juveniles. Participants were 401 college students who were asked to make 3208 true or false judgments and confidence estimates of the juveniles’ confessions. Judgment accuracy was poor across two experiments averaging 52.8% correct with the participants showing a small truth bias in their judgments. Audio and video presentation modes resulted in more accurate judgments than did transcripts. Participants were moderately confident in their accuracy judgments and confidence was sometimes weakly associated with accuracy. A believability index developed from judgments and confidence consistently showed significant, but small, differences in the evaluations of true and false confessions with audio and video presentation, but not with transcripts. Our results suggest that, as with adults, a high degree of caution is necessary when evaluating confessions given by juveniles.