Sample Criminal Justice Essay Paper on Reality Monitoring – Assignment Help

Reality Monitoring

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Reality monitoring is an important tool used during interviews and investigations to detect lies.  One of the reasons for using reality monitoring is to determine whether an event has taken place or whether it is based on people’s imagination. The concept of reality monitoring comes into play when an individual can differentiate between imagination and actual experience. Memories of real experiences come about as a result of visual details, smell, taste, and spatial details whereas memories revolving around imagined events are often vague and can be considered thoughts (Vrij, 2008). This said, it is possible to carry out reality monitoring analysis to differentiate between a truth and a lie. Truths consist of a recollection of real experienced events whereas lies are recollections of events that are imagined. This paper gives a critical analysis of the use of reality monitoring during interviews to detect deception as well as its capacity to produce informational reliability.

During an investigative process, people can be in a situation where they face a dilemma when debating about whether they should confess their actions or not. Of course, what runs through their mind at the time is the possible consequence of confessing or pleading guilty. Such situations see interrogators influence the decision-making abilities of those being investigated. There are many factors that influence the decision-making process during interrogations including age, guilt, personality, a person’s ethnic background, and others. All these play a role in determining whether one will confess their actions or not. According to Kocsis (2009), confession can liberate a guilty person leaving them in a state of catharsis highlighting why several guilty people often find themselves confessing to be set free in the long run. In the interrogation of an individual using the reality monitoring methodology, clarity of each statement is mandatory. Naturally, when one is telling the truth, they tend to be brief and straightforward. However, people guilty of making false statements often finds themselves including unnecessary and vague details. Also, appealing to an individual’s conscience can have a great influence on a suspect during the interrogation process (Vrij, 2008). Flattery and praise have been found to influence many suspects into opening up and telling the truth. Psychological games during interviews have a big role in influencing the answers a suspect can give. Many culprits have often given in when asked to produce names of their gang members in exchange for rewards such as short jail-terms. Several suspects often get carried away while failing to notice the psychological games at play.

Perception information is the other technique used in reality monitoring. In essence, perception information refers to a situation where an investigator relies on give-away statements from a suspect to deduce the truth (Bull, Valentine, & Williamson, 2009). A common defensive statement made by suspects being interrogated is “He is the leader of the gang, not me.”  Such statements may lead the interrogator to what and who was involved in a given crime. Spatial information also works perfectly in determining the extent of lie or deception. It should also be noted that the success of lie detection using reality monitoring depends on the relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee (Bull, Valentine, & Williamson, 2009). Typically, people open up to those who are friendly and welcoming to them. When an interrogator establishes a good relationship with the interviewee, the chances of the interviewee confessing or pleading guilty to charges at hand are high. This could mean that the success of reality monitoring is dependent on the level of empathy, respect, and openness between the interviewer and interviewee (Bull, Valentine, & Williamson, 2009).

Also forming part of the use of reality monitoring to detect deception is the strategic use of evidence. This is a technique that makes it an impossibility for liars to be consistent with the available evidence (Vrij 2008). For example, in a scenario where a person walks into Walmart to shop but unfortunately forgets their briefcase and later find a wallet missing from the briefcase, the same could be reported to the relevant law enforcement authorities tasked with doing investigations on the same. Of course, an appropriate piece of evidence in such a scenario is the use of fingerprints, and this could be used to detect deception among those being investigated. A technique that can be used hand in hand with the use of strategic evidence is asking the interviewees to simultaneously carry out a task and narrate a given ordeal (Masip, Sporer, Garrido, & Herrero, 2005). Such a situation sets the stage for divided attention that could help the investigator detect deception. Of course, a person telling the truth could have an easy time narrating an ordeal while handling a given task at the same time (Ennis, Vrij, & Chance, 2008). This shifts the focus to the fact that the lack of consistency could also help in detecting deception during an interview or an interrogative process. It is believed that shifting from one idea to another or from one answer to another highlights deception or telling a lie (Kocsis 2009).

Moreover, monitoring of the objective and subjective time is a crucial technique when it comes to using reality monitoring to detect deception (Vrij, 2008). Objective time is the actual time during which an event took places whereas subjective time is the amount of time taken to describe the events. In the case of truth, the objective and subjective time are reasonable and correspond. However, in the case of deception, the possibility that the two will correspond or be reasonable is minimal. Therefore, one of the key considerations for interviewers to detect deception using reality monitoring is the correspondence between the objective and subjective time.

To sum up, reality monitoring refers to one’s ability to distinguish between memories for events that actually occurred and those that are imagined. Often, the events that actually occurred are characterized by significantly high levels of sensory-perceptual information. The use of reality monitoring in lie detection results in high accuracy levels. However, the risk of errors cannot be eliminated. Besides, there are various disadvantages of using reality monitoring. For instance, it cannot be used among children as they cannot distinguish between facts and fantasy. Similarly, it is unsuitable for events that happened a several years ago as such events are erased from memory. It is also important to note that reality monitoring depends on an individual’s personality or traits. With the society having naturally anxious and overconfident people, such people are likely to score poorly in reality monitoring interviews. When carrying out investigations using the reality monitoring techniques, ethical and legal considerations should be taken into account. The commitment to meet ethical and legal standards during the use of reality monitoring is evident in nations that do not allow psychological manipulation during such processes. However, there are countries that are yet to meet the required ethical and legal standards, and this includes countries that torture interviewees during such processes. Some of the techniques used in reality monitoring include the use of temporal questions, surprise questions, the creation of cognitively demanding questions, as well as the strategic use of evidence.


Bull, R., Valentine, T., & Williamson, D. T. (2009). Handbook of Psychology of Investigative Interviewing: Current Developments and Future Directions. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from

Ennis, E., Vrij, A., & Chance, C. (2008). Individual differences and lying in everyday life. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships25(1), 105-118. Retrieved from

Kocsis, R. N. (2009). Applied criminal psychology: A guide to forensic behavioral sciences. Springfield, Ill: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher. Retrieved from

Masip, J., Sporer, S. L., Garrido, E., & Herrero, C. (2005). The detection of deception with the reality monitoring approach: A review of the empirical evidence. Psychology, Crime & Law11(1), 99-122. Retrieved from

Vrij, A. (2008). Detecting Lies and Deceit: Pitfalls and Opportunities. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Retrieved from

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