How our Brains Foster Wrongful Convictions

How our Brains Foster Wrongful Convictions

Wrongfully convicted

Back in college my social psychology professor, Elliot Aaronson Ph.D., told us a story over 3 lectures that had us absolutely riveted. It was about a young man Bradley Nelson Page (not to be confused with Dr. Bradley Nelson), a UC Berkeley student who had been accused of murdering his girlfriend.   Dr. Aaronson led us through all the factors of the interrogation that led Page to a false confession of her murder.

That story left me with a sense of awe about how effective persuasion could be.  But it also left me profoundly disturbed about how it could be used, and the implications it had on our “justice” system.

We heard how the police used various mechanisms we discussed in class to force Page to concoct a story that allowed them to frame him.   As a college student, Page could have never imagined that the police would lie and use such manipulative tactics to force a confession!   He later recanted his confession after he was given enough space and rest to think clearly.

But his recanting wasn’t sufficient.

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