A Snitching Enterprise: the Role of Evidence and Incentives on Providing False Secondary Confessions

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Jailhouse informants are thought to be one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. The current studies examined community members’ (E1: N = 99; E2: N = 289) willingness to provide false testimony as a jailhouse informant. In E1, participants were all presented a first offer (1-year sentence reduction) to testify as a jailhouse informant. Those who declined were presented up to three additional offers (four total): a complete reduction in fines, total immunity, and financial support in exchange for testimony. In E2, participants were presented with one of two offers (levels 1 or 4). Notably, 27% (E1) and 17% (E2) of participants were willing to falsely testify against another inmate. Willing participants rated themselves as overall less credible and more interested in serving their own interests than unwilling participants. In addition, cognitive networks of participants’ decision-making revealed that participants were motivated primarily by self-interest. These findings provide novel insight into the decision-making of jailhouse informants and are discussed in terms of legal implications.

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