Mapping the pathways to false confessions: A Behaviour Sequence Analysis approach

Dr David Keatley1

1Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

The complex interaction between Law Enforcement Interrogators and guilty suspects attempting to avoid prosecution is a verbal arms race. Clearly, leniency in interrogations would make it easier for criminals to avoid detection; however, the opposite end of the spectrum is also a concern – innocent individuals confessing to crimes they did not commit. Research has outlined a number of psychological techniques that increase the risk of false confessions. Each technique is typically used repeatedly and throughout the interrogation. Therefore, researchers have begun to investigate the temporal process and effects of these psychological techniques. The current research presentation outlines a series of analyses focusing on interrogations as a dynamic interaction over time. The interrogations of Andrew Mallard, Kosgar Lado, and Brendan Dassey will be used to highlight the effectiveness of the analyses in showing the pattern of psychological techniques throughout the interrogation process. To begin, sentiment analyses are conducted to show how these change between interrogators and suspect across the interrogation process. The main focus of this presentation, however, is to introduce a novel method for understanding complex patterns of interaction: Behaviour Sequence Analysis (BSA). BSA will show the temporal relationship between psychological techniques and suspect’s responses across the interrogation, and how this can be used to indicate the development of a false confession. The findings will be discussed in terms of legal proceedings and understanding the difference between true and false confessions.


Dr Keatley is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia; and Director of Researchers in Behaviour Sequence Analysis (ReBSA), an international network of experts in temporal methods and analysis. Dr Keatley has published over 30 scientific articles in peer-reviewed international journals, and presented at over 50 international conferences. More recently, Dr Keatley has published a book on this methods: Pathways in Crime. Dr Keatley also consults and collaborates with law enforcement groups around the world.

Recent Comments
    Recent Comments