Confessions and denials and the relationship with personality

Authors


Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK (e-mail: g.gudjonsson@iop.kcl.ac.uk).

Abstract

Purpose. The main aim of the study was to examine the reasons and personality factors associated with confessions and denials. It was hypothesized that antisocial personality traits and active involvement in criminal behaviour would distinguish true confessors and true deniers from false confessors and false deniers.

Method. The participants were 1,080 students in further education in Iceland. Each was asked about false admissions made to teachers and parents in the past, as well as about confessions or denials (true and false) made to the police during questioning, and the reasons for having responded in the way they did. The participants also completed questionnaires relating to offending, personality and self-esteem.

Results. One-quarter (25%) of the participants stated that they had in the past been interrogated by the police in relation to a suspected offence, of whom 59% said they had confessed. A small minority of those interrogated (3.7%; 1% of the total sample) claimed to have made false confessions to the police, whereas 10% claimed to have made false confessions to teachers or parents. Males were significantly more likely to report false confessions than females. False confessions and false denials were significantly associated with antisocial personality traits, with Eysenck Personality Questionnaire Psychoticism being the single best predictor. Those participants who made true confessions and true denials were most normal in their personality.

Conclusions. Personality is a significant predictor of who makes false confessions and false denials.

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