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Sleep Deprivation Can Result in False Confessions

FMSF News Alert - March 8, 2016

Steven J. Frenda, Shari R. Berkowitz, Elizabeth F. Loftus, and Kimberly M. Fenn
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
February 23, 2016, Vol 113, No. 8, 2047-2050

Dear Friends,

In a September 19, 2014 FMSF News Alert we described an important study showing that sleep deprivation could affect susceptibility to false memories. This current paper builds on that background and provides direct evidence that links sleep deprivation and false confessions.

The researchers asked participants to complete computer tasks during multiple sessions and warned them that if they pressed the "Escape" key, they would be responsible for the loss of study data.

In the final session of this experiment, some participants slept all night in laboratory bedrooms while others had to stay awake all night.

The next morning, all participants were asked to sign a statement, which summarized their activities and falsely alleged that they had pressed the Escape key.

The results: "After a single request, the odds of signing were 4.5 times higher for the sleep-deprived participants."

For more a detailed description of the study we suggest reading New Scientist, Sleep Deprivation Linked to False Confession in Milestone Study

and also listening to:

Interview with Loftus on Quirks & Quarks.

Pamela and J. Bean