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Beliefs about suspect alibis: A survey of lay people in the United Kingdom, Israel, and Sweden

Journal article
Authors Shiri Portnoy
Lorraine Hope
Aldert Vrij
Karl Ask
Sara Landström
Published in The International Journal of Evidence & Proof
Volume 24
Issue 1
Pages 59-74
ISSN 1365-7127
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 59-74
Language en
Keywords alibis, innocent suspects, jury, presumption of guilt, survey
Subject categories Cognitive science, Applied Psychology


During police interviews, innocent suspects may provide unconvincing alibis due to impaired memory processes or guilt-presumptive behaviour on behalf of the interviewer. Consequently, innocent suspects may be prosecuted and tried in court, where lay people who serve jury duty will assess their alibi’s credibility. To examine lay people’s beliefs and knowledge regarding suspect alibis, and specifically about such factors that may hamper innocent suspects’ ability to provide convincing alibis, we administered an eight-question questionnaire across the United Kingdom (n = 96), Israel (n = 124), and Sweden (n = 123). Participants did not tend to believe that innocent suspects’ alibis might inadvertently include incorrect details, but acknowledged that impaired memory processes may cause this. Additionally, most participants believed that a presumption of guilt can affect how interviewers interview suspects. The findings suggest that lay people who may serve jury duty hold some mistaken beliefs regarding alibi provision by suspects.

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