Are videotaped criminal confessions really as objective as we think?

Camera perspective has been shown to influence our perceptions (if a Hollywood movie can make you feel scared or suspicious, why can’t a videotaped confession unwittingly cause similar effects?)

But more specific to this study, it’s been shown that Caucasians direct more of their attention to minorities. This racial salience phenomenon can cause a skewed perspective:

Evaluations of videotaped criminal confessions can be influenced by the camera perspective taken during recording. Interrogations and confessions recorded with the camera directing observers’ visual attention onto the suspect lead to biased judgments of the suspect. Although a camera perspective that directs visual attention onto the suspect and interrogator equally appears to promote unbiased judgments, investigations to date have relied on videotapes that depict only Caucasian suspects and interrogators. We examined the possibility that even equal-focus videotapes may become problematic when the suspect is a minority (e.g., Chinese American or African American) and the interrogator is Caucasian. That is, to the extent that Caucasian observers are inclined to direct more of their attention onto minorities, an effect documented previously, we expected biased judgments of the suspect to also occur in equal-focus videotapes. Three experiments provided evidence of this racial salience bias. Implications are discussed, including a practical way of avoiding the bias.

Source: “THE HIDDEN CONSEQUENCES OF RACIAL SALIENCE IN VIDEOTAPED INTERROGATIONS AND CONFESSIONS” from Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Volume 16, Issue 2, May 2010, Pages 200-218

If you’re curious about what happens when you end up on the wrong side of justice I recommend this book and this TV series.

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