August 25, 2007

New study on background factors in false confessions

A growing body of research suggests that many of the factors that lead people to confess to crimes that they did not commit are environmental: The suspect is isolated, exhausted, intoxicated, pressured, misled, etcetera.

Some factors pertaining to the individual have also been clearly established. Juveniles and mentally retarded people are far more easily steered into confessing.

Now, Gisli H. Gudjonsson of Iceland, the foremost researcher on this topic, has published a new study examining what other individual factors may contribute to false confessions. The study indicates that a person who has been exposed to multiple traumas in his or her life is more likely to report having given a false confession during a police interrogation.

These traumas include victimization (being the victim of violence or bullying) and experiencing the death of a significant other. A history of substance abuse was also associated with reporting a false confession.

The abstract of the article, published in the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, is available online. The full article is available for a hefty fee.