The Psychology of Confessions

Posted: 27 Dec 2008

See all articles by Saul M. Kassin

Saul M. Kassin

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Date Written: December, 23 2008


Despite the potency of confession evidence in criminal law, recent DNA exonerations indicate that false confessions are a contributing factor in numerous wrongful convictions. After distinguishing between voluntary, compliant, and internalized false confessions, this article reviews research implicating a sequence of three processes responsible for false confessions and the adverse consequences of these confessions. First, police often target innocent people for interrogation because of erroneous judgments of truth and deception made during preinterrogation interviews. Second, innocent people are sometimes induced to confess as a function of certain police interrogation tactics, dispositional suspect vulnerabilities, and naive mental state that accompanies innocence. Third, people cannot readily distinguish between true and false confessions and often fail to discount those confessions they perceive to be coerced. At present, researchers are seeking ways to improve the accuracy of confession evidence and its evaluation in the courtroom.

Keywords: police interrogations, Miranda, lie detection, wrongful convictions

Suggested Citation

Kassin, Saul M., The Psychology of Confessions (December, 23 2008). Annual Review of Law & Social Science, Vol. 4, December 2008, Available at SSRN:

Saul M. Kassin (Contact Author)

John Jay College of Criminal Justice ( email )

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New York, NY 10021
United States

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