It’s Criminal – Press Release Misrepresentation

It’s Criminal – Press Release Misrepresentation

The PR officer is interrogated for a confession


You are sat at a table in a dark room, handcuffed. One police officer is shouting in your face, swearing and appears very angry. The other is stood in the corner watching and interjects saying that maybe a cup of tea is in order. Who is more likely to make you talk? Well, new research claims to have found the answer, or does it?

I originally intended to blog about the findings by the University of Montreal that ‘Good Cop’ beats ‘Bad Cop’. However, having now read the (quite long) paper I have realised I fell into the trap of a press release that took a bit too much of a license with the research. The press release, which can be found here claims that the research proves that the cuddly approach is more likely to draw a confession than an agressive questioning style. Does the paper support this? No. The variables are so intertwined that drawing a conclusion that remotely resembles the press release is at best lazy and at worst deceiptful.

Don’t get me wrong it is a good paper which draws interesting conclusions on the role of evidence quality and social factors, amongst others in obtaining a confession. However, the closest it gets to the press release is the following statment:

“It is reasonable to assume that the interviewer’s strategies and abilities in convincing the offender to confess their crime are an integral part of the interrogation outcome.”

Which I dont believe is anywhere near a strong enough assertion to draw conclusions on the differences between being a ‘good cop’ and a ‘bad cop’.

They did find that the officers interogating are likely to behave differently when the quality of evidence varies. However, this is not enough to support the claims made in the press release. Rather interestingly the Daily Mail and Express both ran with the story. Their takes on the story follows pretty closely along with the press release.

I have no vendetta against science PR. Having had a little bit of experience in the area, I know that they do a good job at helping in the flow of science knowledge from research to the public. I just felt annoyed having had my time wasted looking for the data to support the argument that wasnt really there.

So there we have it, I rest my case.  I shall cease being a ‘bad cop’ and be a ‘good cop’ instead, not because the press release says I should, but because I, unlike the press release, have plenty of evidence to back up my claims!


Deslauriers-Varin, N., Lussier, P., & St-Yves, M. (2011). Confessing their Crime: Factors Influencing the Offender’s Decision to Confess to the Police Justice Quarterly, 28 (1), 113-145 DOI: 10.1080/07418820903218966

Viral Science: Wikipedia A Love Song

Viral Science: Wikipedia A Love Song

What would happen if you dated Wikipedia and then split up?

I have spent quite a bit of time recently exploring and editing Wikipedia for various projects. So, for a viral science post I decided to post up this video about the story of what it would be like to be in a realtionship with Wikipedia:

Here are the lyrics to the song:

When I met you, I thought you were really smart
And even more so when we started going out
It was your intellect that really won my heart
There was so much stuff you knew so much about

I was hungry for knowledge, and I was single
I didn’t want to date and really hadn’t planned to
You were cool and you were smart and multilingual
And I felt like I could really understand you

But then, it went downhill
and we can never get back to our better days
I’m done, I’ve had my thrill
and I think we ought to go our separate ways

But it isn’t you, it’s me
I guess we just weren’t meant to be
I thought we were inseparable, I thought you were my friend
But looking back now, it all makes sense at the end

You’re sometimes vague, and you’re often inconsistent
You’ve no opinions, you never take a stance
You’re so dispassionate, you always sound so distant
And I tell you, you know zilch about romance

And not once did you ever say you love me
You sent no flowers, you NEVER called me “honey”
You always talked as if you were above me
And it feels like you are always needing money

Sometimes you generalize,
And on better days your tone is condescending
And when we talk books or films
You ALWAYS find a way spoil the ending

But it isn’t you, it’s me
I need someone more scholarly
I thought you had the answers, but your smarts are all pretend
And my attraction only makes sense at the end

You just believe everything you’re ever told
You never question, I’m pretty sure you don’t fact check
When someone puts ideas into your head
You never blink, you immediately buy it
I won’t say that you have no integrity… but I might imply it

It turns out you’re not the guy I thought I knew
and I think we need to stop and take a breather
I never know if what you’re saying’s really true
and frankly, sometimes, I don’t think you know either

You have no real facts, your knowledge is all heresay
And I’m tired of playing all your stupid games
You don’t keep pictures of me, and you don’t know my birthday
I don’t think that you even know my name

You keep tabs on other girls
But I notice there’s no article for me
You’re known by all the world
So I guess I’m just a droplet in the sea

But it isn’t you, it’s me
I owe you no apology
I know not to judge my company just based upon its looks
I’m too grown-up for your articles, it’s time that I read books

Adventures in Google NGrams

Adventures in Google NGrams

This has been around for a while, but I thought that for today’s blog post I would have a bit of fun with Google NGrams. For those of you who dont know what it is, Google Books have scanned millions of books dating back a long way and you can look at changes in word usage over time using Google NGrams.

Observe vs Experiment (click on the images to see them full size):

Sex vs Drugs vs Rock vs Roll

War vs Peace (both World Wars clearly visible)

Charles Darwin vs Alfred Russel Wallace

Nikola Tesla vs Thomas Edison