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Effects of investigators’ epistemic motivation: Biased perception and sensitivity to criminal evidence

Conference paper
Authors Karl Ask
Pär-Anders Granhag
Published in Paper presented at the 15th European Conference on Psychology and Law, Vilnius, Lithuania
Publication year 2005
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Criminal investigation, motivation, bias
Subject categories Social Sciences


In a first study, 50 experienced criminal investigators (Experiment 1) and 68 university students (Experiment 2) read a condensed homicide case material. Students interpreted the material differently as a function of their initial hy-pothesis regarding the case, whereas investigators made incriminating interpre-tations regardless of hypothesis. Investigators with a high (vs. low) need for cog-nitive closure (NFC) were somewhat more influenced by their initial hypothesis. In a second study of 49 experienced investigators, a witness who reported infor-mation inconsistent (vs. consistent) with investigators’ initial hypothesis was per-ceived as less reliable and credible. High-NFC (vs. low-NFC) participants were less influenced by the witness in their perception of the case. The studies indicate that initial beliefs regarding a crime may color the interpretation of subsequent evidence, and that epistemic motives may be an important source of belief perse-verance

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