Home is where the heart lies? A study of false address giving to police

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The purpose of the present paper is to identify the cognitive processes associated with the construction of a false address, and explore how this can be used to identify and trace those who give a false address to police. It is hypothesized that most people find it difficult to spontaneously fabricate an entire false address. As a consequence they provide identifiable clues as to the real address being concealed.

A quasi-experimental research design was employed where 142 students were first asked to generate a false address and second to analyse it to ascertain how random they considered it to be.

Participants, overwhelmingly, stated that the false addresses generated contained elements of truth which could be used to identify their real place of residence. Although most participants appeared capable of generating bona fide false postcodes, comparison with an official UK postcode list identified over 60% did not actually exist.

People generally rely on pre-existing address knowledge as opposed to random generation, with the latter appearing more cognitively effortful. As such, they often unwittingly provide clues to the real address being concealed, therefore, affording increased possibilities in identifying them as liars at point of contact and in tracing them after the fact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-220
Number of pages12
JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


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