Adolescents' Susceptibility to Interrogative Suggestibility Utilizing Simulated Law-Enforcement Techniques

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Charles D. Noblin

Advisor Department



This study explores juveniles' waivers of rights and the "voluntariness" of confessions. Review of the legal literature and case law precedent highlight that the high level of violent juvenile offenses has led to legal reform in juvenile justice. These changes make it more likely that adolescents, who commit violent offenses, will be placed in the adult criminal system, and exposed to police interrogation procedures, without the benefit of Youth Court protections. The goal of the present research was to investigate the coercive influence of salient elements of police interrogation methods, and the effect they have on interrogative suggestibility in adolescents. Age groups in the study involved 13-14 year olds, 15-16 year olds, and adults. Two simulated interrogation methods, which are known as maximization, or the false evidence ploy, and minimization, or psychological justification, were evaluated with the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale (GSS). Gudjonsson (1992) emphasizes that there are two distinct aspects of interrogative suggestibility, which are known as Yield and Shift. The GSS measures the extent to which participants "yield" to leading questions before and after negative feedback, and the extent to which participants can be made to "shift" or change their answers to either suggestive or non-suggestive questions based on negative feedback and interpersonal pressure. Memory and IQ were assessed as covariates, because past research has shown a significant negative correlation with interrogative suggestibility. Results showed an overall main effect for both interrogation methods on Shift and Yield, when compared to a control group. The hypothesis of the main effect of condition was confirmed in five out of six comparisons. A priori linear contrasts for simple effects were significant for both adolescent groups in the maximization technique, when compared to same-age controls. There was also a significant difference between both interrogation techniques for older adolescents; this effect was significant with 13-14 year olds on Yield only. No age-related differences or interactions were found.