Illusory Causation

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The progression of technology has had a tremendous impact on daily life. This technological evolution has had a significant influence on the criminal justice system. The article Illusory Causation in the Courtroom by G. Daniel Lassiter explained, via a three-stage experiment, that the camera point of a videotaped confession can cause bias in the conviction rate, a videotaped confession is not ironclad proof that a defendant is guilty nor should videotaped confessions be allowed in court. This study consists of three stages.

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The study hypothesized that if the camera point concentrated on the suspect, then the suspect has an increased chance of being found guilty due to bias and prejudistic effects of illusory causation. The independent variable, what is being manipulated or changed, is the camera point; for example, the camera is entirely focused on the suspect compared to the camera point equally focusing on both the suspect and the interrogator. The dependent variable, what is being quantified and responds to the manipulation or change, in the study is the rates at which they found the suspects guilty. The overarching goal of stage one of the study is to identify the presence of bias due to the camera angle. It was comprised of eight studies.

Five of the experiments included brief videos, under five minutes each, and utilized components that police texts propose should transpire in true interrogations or that befall in official investigations; the additional content of the three additional experiments utilized exclusively of police interrogation transcripts each roughly 30 minutes. Participants across all experiments in stage one consisted solely of college students enrolled in introductory psychology courses. A rating system was utilized for data acquisition.

Stage one demonstrated that the participants of the study perceived the confession as more voluntary when the camera angle was focused on the suspect rather than other angles — the perception of voluntariness effects the severity of sentencing recommendation, even when everything else was kept constant including the dialogue. The findings were that harsher sentencing was recommended when the suspect was the primary focus of the videotaped confession when compared to other camera angles including views equally focused on both the suspect and the interrogator. These findings remained constant even when the participants were told they would have to elaborate their findings to a judge. While stage two is more complex and diverse in participants than stage one, it maintains the same overarching theme of camera angles altering the perception. The purpose of diversifying participants is to increase the receptiveness of the courts to the study.

Stage two entailed three experiments. Participants in two of the experiments had adults not enrolled in college who are qualified to serve on a jury from both urban and rural areas of Ohio; the other experiment both students and nonstudents participated. Conviction rates were doubled when camera angles were solely centered on the suspect. This remained true even when the participants were allowed to view the videotape a second time and were explained the possibility of bias due to the camera angle. Age nor gender had any factor in the study. In stage three the focus shifted to recognizing and assessing the underlying mechanisms, specifically the memory and perception mediated rationals, of illusory causation. Stage three was composed of four experiments that found ‘a person’s literal point of view (which, in these instances, was determined completely by the camera’s perspective) affects how he or she initially registers, or extracts, information from an observed interaction, which in turn affects his or her judgments regarding the causal influence exerted by each interactant.’ (Lassiter, 2002) These findings support the hypothesis and aid in the validation of stages one and two.

Due to bias caused by Illusory Causation and nonassaultive psychological manipulation videotaped confessions are not ironclad proof that a defendant is guilty. According to the article, 101 death row inmates were released in 2002, many due to wrongful conviction tracked to the integration period. Often nonassaultive psychological manipulation is not perceived as coercion therefor videotaping the interrogation and confession are unjust to defendants. These videotaped confessions also are persuasive in the courts; for example, changing the point of view from including both the interrogator and the suspect to just being focused on the suspect doubled the conviction rate in this study. Due to these reasons, videotaped confessions should not be permitted in court.

Illusory Causation in the Courtroom is a phenomenal paper written by G. Daniel Lassiter. It explains that the camera angle of a videotaped confession can cause bias in the conviction rate. Due to this paper and experiments, it is justified that videotaped confessions are not ironclad proof that a defendant is guilty nor should videotaped confessions be allowed in court. There are three stages to the experiments described in Lassiter’s paper. Stage one recognized the ubiquity of bias because of the camera angle. Stage two reemphasized what stage one discovered; however it including more diverse participants and more complicated cases. Stage three investigated illusory causation as the mechanism behind the prejudice based on the camera perspective. Overall technology has evolved our everyday life and has even made its way into the courtroom.

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Illusory Causation. (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved January 28, 2023 , from

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