Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Mark A. Costanzo

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© 2012 Tova A. Markowitz


False confessions are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. Defendants under the age of 18 or who have mental retardation are at a high risk of making false confessions. Participants read a short synopsis of a hypothetical robbery and trial. They then answered several questions as jurors. The age (16 years or 32 years) and intelligence in terms of IQ (68 or 102) of the defendant were manipulated. Results suggest there was no effect of age or intelligence on verdict or confidence that the confession was true. There was an effect of age and intelligence on guilt confidence such that defendants are less confident of a guilty verdict when the defendant is a juvenile or has mental retardation than when the defendant is an adult or of average intelligence. Punishment of younger defendants was more lenient than punishment of adult defendants. Confessions made by defendants with mental retardation were perceived as less reliable than confessions made by defendants of average intelligence, but there was no effect of intelligence on punishment.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.