Measuring police caution comprehension in adult offenders and the relationship to cognitive functioning

Chaulk, Sarah J. (2013) Measuring police caution comprehension in adult offenders and the relationship to cognitive functioning. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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In Canada, the rights to silence and legal counsel are communicated to suspects through passages of text known as police cautions. Previous research on comprehension of cautions in Canada, the United States, England and Wales, and Scotland has shown that people rarely comprehend the information contained in police cautions. In the current study, the level of comprehension of two police cautions in a sample of Canadian offenders was investigated, along with the relationship between comprehension, education, and three measures of cognitive ability. Participants (n₁ = 60) were asked to comprehend both a right-to-silence and right-to-legal counsel caution that was presented to them verbally. Comprehension was measured using free recall and recognition tasks (13-item true-false test). Participants were also asked to complete select subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales - Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV; Digit Span and Vocabulary) and a subtest of the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement - Third Edition (WJ-III; Understanding Directions). The results showed that participants demonstrated a poor understanding of their legal rights, as the average comprehension score was 30%. In addition, the measures of cognitive ability were unrelated to caution comprehension scores. A post hoc sample (n₂ = 16; N = 76), whose comprehension was tested without hearing the cautions, demonstrated an average comprehension of 15%. The implication of these findings for the administration of police cautions to Canadian offenders is discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 10292
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 64-76).
Keywords: Police Caution, Comprehension, Charter Rights, Cognitive Functioning, Listening Comprehension, Vocabulary Knowledge, Working Memory
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: 2013
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Cognitive Abilities Test--Canada; Comprehension--Testing; Alternatives to imprisonment; Criminals--Psychological testing.

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