Encouraging eyewitnesses to falsely corroborate allegations: effects of rapport-building and incriminating evidence

Deborah S. Wright, Robert A. Nash, Kimberley A. Wade*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Building rapport involves developing a harmonious relationship with another person and conveying understanding and acceptance towards that person. Law enforcement officers use rapport-building to help gather information from witnesses. But could rapport-building, in some situations, work to contaminate eyewitness testimony? Research shows that compelling incriminating evidence can lead people to corroborate false accusations made against another person. We investigated whether rapport-building – when combined with either Verbal or Verbal+Visual false evidence – might boost these corroboration rates. Subjects took part in a pseudo-gambling task, in which their counterpart was falsely accused of cheating. Using a 2 (Rapport: Rapport vs. No-rapport) × 2 (Incriminating Evidence: Verbal vs. Verbal+Visual) between-subjects design, we persuaded subjects to corroborate the accusation. We found that both rapport and verbal+visual incriminating evidence increased the compliance rate. Even when the incriminating evidence was only presented verbally, rapport-building subjects were almost three times as likely to corroborate a false accusation compared to subjects who did not undergo rapport-building. Our results suggest that although there is widespread and strong support for using rapport-building in interviews, doing so also has the potential to aggravate the contaminating power of suggestive interview techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-660
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Volume21
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2015

Keywords

  • compliance
  • eyewitness
  • false accusations
  • false evidence
  • rapport

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