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The psychological study of police investigations: Contributions from motivated social cognition research

Conference paper
Authors Karl Ask
Pär-Anders Granhag
Published in Paper presented at the 14th European Conference on Psychology and Law, Cracow, Poland.
Publication year 2004
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Motivation, police investigation, social cognition
Subject categories Social Sciences


Some of the most common mistakes in criminal investigations include one-sided and confirmatory information seeking, and premature narrowing of potential suspects. Such activities appear somewhat comprehensible, considering the fact that investigators typically face considerable time pressure and work in a police culture that advocates efficiency, decisiveness and prestige—conditions that promote a need for investigative closure and undue partiality toward specific conclusions. The motivated social cognition framework accounts for how people’s wishes and needs affect social judgments, and a number of mechanisms for such influence have been identified. The present paper is a theoretical overview seeking to elucidate the direct implications that the mechanisms of motivated cognition have for the investigative process and the practical consequences that may follow. In addition, some initial experimental results generated from this approach are presented

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