A Momentary Lapse of Reason
According to the Innocence Project, “More than 1 out of 4 people wrongfully convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement.” In fact, false confessions occur more often when the crime is severe. If you are wondering why anyone would confess to a crime they didn’t commit, it really comes down to the influence of powerful interrogation tactics… the power of persuasion.
The Innocence Project cites the following reasons for false confessions due to police interrogations:
ignorance of the law
fear of violence
the actual infliction of harm
the threat of a harsh sentence
misunderstanding the situation.
Many of these factors can be attributed to one of the five “momentary lapses of reason” I describe in my new book PERSUADED. These lapses of reason are like a switch that turns off our ability to think rationally. They are a detriment to sound decision making.
The five primary lapses of reason are: when we are overwhelmed with information, have too little information, are emotionally aroused, feel time pressure and when we are afraid. Many of the factors listed above fall under one of these categories.
However, one of the most powerful momentary lapses of reason is fatigue. When we are physically, mentally and emotionally tired, we are extremely susceptible to influence and poor decision making. The reason why interrogations last so long is to induce a condition of fatigue in the person of interest. Unfortunately, confessions induced by long interrogations have proven unreliable and detrimental to law enforcement. Why? Because inducing a false confession means an innocent person goes to prison, while the real perpetrator goes free.
The same principle applies in negotiations. Why do you think it takes so long to negotiate the price of an automobile? If the negotiation lasts long enough… they will even get you to buy the undercoating.
I can’t think of a positive reason to induce a condition of fatigue, so I purposely excluded this momentary lapse of reason from my book. Fatigue is a powerful momentary lapse of reason trigger that primes us for influence. When we are tired, we make terrible decisions. So, when you find yourself in a condition of fatigue, take a break. Walk away. Get some rest. Let someone else drive for a while. Because powering through means powering off… your brain.