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

Paper i proceeding
Författare Karl Ask
Pär-Anders Granhag
Publicerad i The 2nd meeting of the NNPL, Kristianstad, Sweden, September 29-30
Publiceringsår 2005
Publicerad vid Psykologiska institutionen
Språk en
Ämneskategorier Psykologi

Sammanfattning

External pressures in investigators’ work environment, such as time pressure, occupational culture, and pressure from media and the public, are likely to activate epistemic goals—subjective preferences regarding the outcome of cognitive tasks. Predictions were derived from the motivated social cognition framework as to how epistemic goals might influence the tasks carried out in criminal investigations. A first study examined the prediction that investigators’ initial hypothesis regarding a crime would influence their interpretation of ambiguous criminal evidence, particularly when motivated to achieve cognitive closure. The results of two experiments, with 50 experienced criminal investigators (Experiment 1) and 68 university students (Experiment 2), showed that students’ interpretations of a criminal case material differed significantly as a function of their initial hypothesis. In contrast, investigators tended to perceive the material in incriminating terms across conditions. A non-significant trend suggested that investigators with a high (vs. low) need for cognitive closure (NFC) were more influenced by their initial hypothesis. A second study tested the prediction that witnesses who reported information inconsistent (vs. consistent) with investigators’ initial hypothesis would be perceived as less reliable and credible, particularly by investigators working under high NFC. The prediction received consistent support in the data from 49 experienced criminal investigators. Although the effect was not moderated by investigators’ level of NFC, participants high (vs. low) in NFC were more persistent in their initial hypothesis regarding the crime, and less influenced by the witness evidence.

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