Mobilization and resistance in response to interrogation threat

Max Guyll, Yueran Yang, Stephanie Madon, Laura Smalarz, Daniel G. Lannin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This research tested whether the perception of threat during a police interrogation mobilizes suspects to cope with interrogation demands and bolsters their resistance to self-incrimination pressures. Experimental procedures led university undergraduates (N = 296) to engage in misconduct or not, thereby making them guilty or innocent. An experimenter then accused all participants of misconduct in either a threatening or nonthreatening way. High threat produced a broad pattern of mobilization entailing physiologic, cognitive, and behavioral components. Specifically, in comparison to the low threat accusation, the high threat accusation produced greater cardiovascular reactions, increased attentional bias and memory for accusation-relevant information, and strengthened resistance to self-incrimination. Furthermore, with the exception of physiologic reactions, these effects were similar for both guilty and innocent participants. Consistent with the phenomenology of innocence wherein the innocent perceive less threat from interrogation than do the guilty, the innocent evidenced smaller cardiovascular responses to high threat than did the guilty. Results suggest that the more threat that suspects experience, the more they will be mobilized to cope with interrogation demands and resist interpersonal pressure to selfincriminate, at least initially.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-318
Number of pages12
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Confession
  • Interrogation
  • Memory
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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