The Psychology of Alibis

  • Steve CharmanEmail author
  • Kureva Matuku
  • Alexandra Mosser
Part of the Advances in Psychology and Law book series (APL, volume 4)


The psychological study of alibis is in its nascent phase, and the empirical literature on alibis is correspondingly inchoate. This chapter reviews the current state of the literature on the psychology of alibis. First, we discuss the process of alibi generation and argue that there are three main obstacles that prevent innocent suspects from generating accurate and believable alibis: They often lack a memory of the critical event, they rely heavily on schema-based responding, and they lack the ability to produce corroborating evidence. Based on the extant literature, we propose the schema disconfirmation model as a theoretical framework in which to understand the process of alibi generation. Next, we discuss the process of alibi evaluation and delineate the factors that make alibis more or less believable. To reconcile seemingly conflicting findings, we suggest theoretical refinements to the alibi skepticism hypothesis, which claims that evaluators are particularly skeptical of alibi claims. Finally, we propose directions for future research with the aim of (a) advancing our theoretical understanding of the alibi generation and evaluation processes, and (b) encouraging researchers to adopt a system variables approach to maximize the impact alibi research can have on the collection and treatment of alibi evidence.


Alibi generation Alibi believability Schemas Autobiographical memory Wrongful convictions Policing 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steve Charman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kureva Matuku
    • 1
  • Alexandra Mosser
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.University of MiamiMiamiUSA

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