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Interrogation May Produce More False Confessions Among Teens, Study Finds

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Typical interrogation techniques produce more false confessions among teens, a University of Virginia study finds.
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Typical interrogation techniques produce more false confessions among teens, a University of Virginia study finds.

Routine police interrogation techniques may be to blame for a high rate of false confessions among teenage suspects. That's according to a new study from social scientists with the University of Virginia.

Psychologists at the University of Virginia surveyed 178 detectives and found the vast majority used the same techniques to question adults and kids.

"It's perfectly legal for police officers to completely fabricate evidence and say that they have that to use against you in court," says Todd Warner, a graduate student at the university. "They can bring in a friend of yours and say they're in the other room, and they're blaming it all on you, when in fact that person may or may not be there."

Street-wise adults may see right through those tactics, but kids may not. They often waive their right to a lawyer and trust authority figures. What's more, parts of their brain involving impulse control are not fully developed.

"If you're a teenager, you're more likely to weigh short-term gains, which would be 'I want to get out of here,' and not fully understand that confessing to a crime will have a long-term consequence," Warner says.

It could explain why many cases of false confession involve teens.

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