Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Psychology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Amy Hackney


The primary purpose of this experiment was to test whether individuals higher in psychopathy would experience less stress during a mock interrogation situation compared to individuals lower in psychopathy. Psycholegal experiments using a mock interrogation paradigm have focused on the situational conditions that increase the likelihood of false confessions. To our knowledge these studies have not investigated factors that predict a guilty participant’s refusal to confess. We chose to investigate whether psychopathy would predict refusal to confess when guilty of a mock crime. Psychopathy is a personality disorder often characterized by callous affect, interpersonal manipulation, and impulsiveness. In addition, individuals who are higher in psychopathy may possess adaptive traits, such as stress immunity. Eleven participants were randomly assigned to either an innocent or guilty condition in a mock interrogation paradigm and assessed for psychopathy levels. It was hypothesized that individuals higher in adaptive psychopathic traits would have a lower heart rate during a stressful mock interrogation, report less anxiety, and be more likely to deny guilt than individuals lower in adaptive psychopathy. Results showed that all of the guilty participants confessed, and two-thirds of the not guilty participants confessed. As predicted, correlational analyses showed a moderate negative association between reported anxiety during the interrogation and psychopathy, but this test was underpowered and yielded a nonsignificant association. We recommend that future research develop a protocol that will lead to guilty participants refusing to confess to adequately test the relationship between psychopathy, stress immunity, and behavioral reactions to a mock interrogation.