Investigation Of Laughter By Suspects And Police Officers

870 words - 4 pages

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 whilst an officer can use it as a tool to circumvent strictures such as the PACE Act which govern their accepted behaviours which she refers to as "a time out".

Thus, her paper devotes itself entirely to an empirically based discussion of specific analytic methods and neglects "a priori discussion of the literature to formulate hypotheses, hardly any details about research situations or subjects researched, no descriptions of sampling techniques or coding procedures, no testing and no statistics." (Ten Have, 1986). Confronted instead by detailed discussion of recording transcriptions, it has a tendancy to confuse those who are not familiar with CA's research style. As there are hardly any prescriptions regarding 'good CA' it would have been beneficial for Carter to have included a brief outline of her CA practices together with evidence on why CA would be best suited as otherwise, what has been given is a "Sketch of an analytic mentality". (Schenkein', 1978) where the researcher uses habitual expectations, derived from established social-scientific practice, as a frames of reference in understanding this unusual species of scientific work. On the other hand, while the material's characteristics i.e interaction streams sets broad limits it leaves the researcher space to develop their own argumentative procedures which is what Carter has probably done.

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...

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