Investigation of Laughter by Suspects and Police Officers Essay

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With few academic explorations, police interviews are surrounded by myths that are cultured by television and film rather than real cases and analysis using tools such as conversation analysis (CA). Carter's (2005) study addresses this issue and draws upon extracts from 150 cases from England and Wales and investigates the use of laughter by suspects and police officers in the institutional context. She concluded that basic laughter is "uniform across participants" such as in response to "a ridiculous comment in the prior turn". However on a secondary level, laughter is a tool that can be directed towards different objectives. She argues that the suspect uses laughter to challenge the interviewer and reinforce their statements veracity …show more content…

Unlike Television shows where attention is mostly concentrated on confessions, Carter's data highlights the fact that less than 5% of her 150 samples (taken over three years) include any form of a confession showing that despite the police officer's emphasis that the interview is source of confession it is rare to actually obtain one. Thus, rather than treating confession as the primary goal of the interview whuch puts the rights of the suspect at risk, it should be an open-ended session where the goal is to acquire evidence to bolster the case and not to presume guilt. CA is an analytic procedure normally reserved for ordinary talk, a point which Carter calls attention to, but then neglects to comment further on whether analytuc procedures can be fully appropriate for use on police interviews. Furthermore, due to the indiviualistic nature of CA are her views ever objective? as one author's interpretations of laughters functions and meanings are inevitably subjective. Despite these shortcomings, her analyses suggests that more research, preferably using more objective methods, are worthwhile. Carter's results can be easily applied by practitioners and demonstrates the utility of CA within the blossoming field and builds upon previous studies by Heydon (2005), Edwards (2008) and Stokoe (2009a, 2009b). However, she uses a very focussed and narrow domain of CA and those such as Heritage (2012) argues the analysis "falls prey to sequentialism".

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