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Why Do People Make False Confessions

Snehal Motkar Sep 19, 2020
False confession is the acceptance of the guilt in a crime, that a person is not actually responsible for. Though this concept seems unusual, it happens on a regular basis in the courts of law. Let us find out in detail what causes people to make false confessions in the following story.
In a court case, a confession made by the criminal is supposed to be the key factor in the judgment procedure. It makes the case stronger for the opposing party. But confessions are not always true and even discovering a false confession is quite difficult.
So why do people make false confessions? On a surface level, it can be understood as an act by a parent to save his/her child or a person wanting to seek attention or when a person is afraid of the severe punishment or one who is mentally ill and does not have an idea, what it can cost him/her.
Though these confessions are out of one's choice, some kind of force (the condition through which the confessor goes through) always lies behind it. False confessions are mostly an outcome of psychological states, they largely depend on psychological factors.

Types of False Confessions

In the year 1985, two social psychologists Saul Kassin and Lawrence Wrightsman discovered the three types of false confessions:
  1. Voluntary False Confessions
  2. Coerced Compliant False Confessions
  3. Coerced Internalized False Confessions

Voluntary Confessions

A voluntary confession is made not at the time of police interrogation, but in front of someone else. There is no pressure by the police on the confessor but outsiders can instigate or pressurize to confess.
Some people attempt voluntary confession to achieve fame and notoriety, they want public attention like I mentioned earlier. These people are fascinated with the excitement of the whole process. They are not able to differentiate between the real world and fantasy.
This type of false confession seems to be a result of a mentally disturbed condition but mental disturbance is not solely responsible for false confession. Some people give false confessions in order to save the actual culprit.

Coerced Compliant Confessions

These confessions happen during police interrogation and the confession is the result of police coercion and pressure. The interrogator uses various interrogation techniques so that the confessor finally admits the guilt.
One interrogation technique is applying an extreme level of physical and mental torture during the interrogation. In order to reduce the level of torture or to stop further torture, people feel that it is best to confess.
In the ancient times in America, there was more of a physical torture like the third degree but, today it has become a psychological pressure. The police try to persuade the confessor in such a way that he/she does not have any other option but to confess. The psychological coercion technique is the main source of compliant false confessions.
It is as powerful as the physical one. The confessor begins to lose control over his/hers cognitive capacities because of the stressful experience and just wants to terminate the experience. People also want to take the advantages of promises like leniency in conviction or rewards after confession made at the time of interrogation.

Coerced Internalized Confessions

These are an interesting type of confessions. People begin to believe that they have committed the crime. People who have weak memory and possess low self-esteem provide such confessions.
They are also highly dependable and can easily get influenced by others, for example, if the interrogators provide false information, the confessor will believe it to be true and admit the guilt. They are often confused because of long and continuous session of interrogation.
Apart from these three basic types of confessions, people who are mentally under-developed tend to give false confessions. I have said earlier that these people do not understand what will be the result of their false confession on their future.
But even if some do realize the consequences, they believe that they are always wrong and accepting guilt for the crime will be a better way of surviving.
A technology should be invented in order to reduce the frequency of false confessions and capture the real criminals. It is said that no matter if a hundred criminals are let free, an innocent should never be punished.