The Psychology of False Confessions / Why people confess to crimes they did not commit

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Lamprecht
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The Psychology of False Confessions / Why people confess to crimes they did not commit

Postby Lamprecht » 1 year 2 days ago (Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:05 pm)

In online debates, sometimes I notice revisionists making big mistakes. A notable example is when a false "confession" is posted, one of the first reactions is to suggest that the individual in question was tortured. It is of course a fact that some German "confessions" were given after they were tortured (check related links at the bottom for examples) but it is incorrect to assume that is the only explanation for false confessions, or even the most likely one. Torture is just one of many possible explanations as to why a person would confess to a crime they didn't commit. The following articles provide additional insight on the prevalence of false confessions, and the reasons behind them.

"A free and voluntary confession is deserving of the highest credit, because it is presumed to flow from the strongest sense of guilt… but a confession forced from the mind of the accused by flattery of hope or by torture of fear, comes in so questionable a shape when it is to be considered as the evidence of guilt, that no credit ought to be given to it, and therefore it is rejected."
– King vs. Jane Warwickshall, 1783

ImageImage

Links to the full text of the articles:

This psychologist explains why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/06 ... n-t-commit or http://archive.is/n2n23

False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications for Reform
https://archive.is/VwUSi or http://web.archive.org/web/20191018022300if_/https://web.williams.edu/Psychology/Faculty/Kassin/files/Kassin%20(2008)%20-%20APS%20CD.pdf

These articles explain that between 1/5 to 1/4 of criminal exonerations using DNA evidence involved people that "confessed" to a crime that they did not actually commit. Modern police interrogation methods have been criticized for resulting in false confessions, and it is not a stretch to assume that this was even worse in the past. People confess to crimes they didn't commit for various reasons, some examples: to escape a stressful situation, to receive a more lenient punishment, because they believe they will be rewarded, because they think it will benefit them in the short-term, etc.

Despite the aforementioned issues, confessions are usually treated as a sort of "smoking gun" in criminal court cases. This alone would provide a powerful motive for vengeful, crooked prosecutors to employ whatever methods possible to acquire a fake "confession." Keep in mind also that these findings are in regards to the United States court system, which although flawed in many ways is certainly more fair and just than the "War crimes tribunals" held after the Second World War.



Recommended reading:

Criminal Justice Institute guide on Witness Testimony & Credibility
viewtopic.php?t=12783

The Value of Testimony and Confessions Concerning the Holocaust
https://codoh.com/library/document/932/

[Book] Auschwitz: Eyewitness Reports and Perpetrator Confessions of the Holocaust—30 Gas-Chamber Witnesses Scrutinized
viewtopic.php?t=12621

Fact: Torture used to get 'confessions' from Germans
viewtopic.php?t=5552

Nuremberg - Fair Trial or Show Trial?
viewtopic.php?t=11053
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
— Herbert Spencer

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Re: The Psychology of False Confessions / Why people confess to crimes they did not commit

Postby Lamprecht » 1 year 2 days ago (Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:43 pm)

Here is an excellent article from a criminal defense group on this topic, with a good recommended reading section.
Detectives, police, etc are experts at getting confessions out of people, it's their job after all. Detectives may feel like they are not doing their job if they can't get a conviction, so if they only have one suspect they might do whatever they can to convince him/her to confess. Typically when we think of "Torture" the first thing that pops into our mind is physical beatings. However, psychological coercion may instead be an even more effective method of obtaining false confessions.
False Confessions

As we saw in the case of Amanda Knox, isolating, baiting, antagonizing, berating, and even befriending a suspect is likely to produce a confession or, at least, a statement that the prosecutor can use to place the suspect at the scene of the crime. Aside from considerations such as our desire as a civilized society to treat humanely those accused of crimes, the suspect’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and the accused’s Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer, the tactics employed by seasoned homicide detectives should be condemned because they often produce unreliable or false confessions. Given the importance a jury is likely to attach to a confession, a false confession is a tragedy that should be avoided at all costs.

Unless his Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer has a comprehensive understanding of the interrogation tactics employed by detectives, the cross-examination skills to cripple the detective’s credibility, and the oratory ability to undermine the jury’s confidence in the integrity of the confession, the individual who has given a false confession will be convicted. No detective is ever going to admit that he shouted at a suspect, threatened to send him up the river, or ignored his pleas for food, access to a telephone, sleep, or to end the interrogation. Many, if not most, Massachusetts detectives are willing to put their credibility up against that of the individual accused of a serious crime. These detectives view their legal obligations to advise a suspect of his Miranda rights, to provide him with access to a telephone, and to cease questioning if the suspect asserts either that wants to discontinue the interrogation or that he wants a lawyer, as minor annoyances easily sidestepped. Detectives believe it is their job to extract a confession and to lie about the means they employed to get that confession. Few juries will credit the accused when he takes the stand to plaintively describe how the detectives forced him to confess to a crime he did not commit – especially not when the detective was so nice and impressive on the stand.

False confessions are not only bad for the accused, but disastrous for society. While it is unsettling that the innocent are convicted by shoddy, shortcut oriented police work, it is almost as troubling that, because of the false confession, the actual criminal goes free. The “confession” most likely, marks the end of the investigation. Following the “confession,” the detectives will dot an “i” or cross a “t,” but the investigation is, in any real sense, over. The person truly responsible for the crime will likely go undiscovered and unprosecuted. Even if the prosecutor and the police come to realize that the “confession” coerced from a suspect was bogus, that bogus confession makes it very difficult for the prosecutor to win a conviction against the real criminal. How can a jury find beyond a reasonable doubt that the real criminal committed the crime when another individual gave a confession after being advised of his Miranda rights?

Investigating a serious crime is hard, tedious work. It’s not like the one-hour weekly cop drama. Finding witnesses, gathering and preserving any physical evidence, and piecing together the case can take weeks, months or years. When interrogating a suspect, the detectives often do not know if the forensic evidence will reveal any connection between the suspect and crime. Afraid that they will end up with no evidence of guilt or to avoid unglamourous, boring police work, they go to extremes to wring a confession out of a suspect. It is easier, so much easier, and perhaps “safer” to trap a suspect in a small room and relentlessly question him until he either hangs himself with inconsistencies or cries out in fear, frustration, exhaustion, or desperation that he committed the crime. Case solved. No following up leads, no witness interviews, no stake-outs.

The exhausted, the isolated, the ignorant, the emotionally weak, and the frightened give false confessions. Dr. Mark Blagrove, a researcher and senior psychology lecturer at the University of Wales, states in a BBC news interview in October 2000, that sleep deprived individuals can be coached into giving affirmative answers to questions to which they could not possibly know the answers. Depriving individuals of sleep has for centuries been used by interrogators to elicit or coerce confessions – false or true. While the physical beatings may have disappeared, psychological coercion, a far more effective method, has proven a menacing and therefore worthy replacement.

The detectives interrogating the five youths accused of raping the victim in the Central Park jogger case, through the use of isolation, intimidation, threats and psychological coercion and manipulation, got not one youth, but all five youths to confess to the crime. The detectives likely congratulated themselves on their cleverness and refusal to take “no” for an answer. Unfortunately for these five youths, the victim, the detectives, and society as a whole, none of the five boys were involved in the rape. Not one. That the confessions were contradicted by the forensic evidence apparently, bothered the detectives and the prosecutors not at all. Meanwhile, the real culprit, Matias Reyes, remained at large and a threat to the city’s women. It was not until 13 years later, when irrefutable DNA evidence connected Reyes to the crime, that the prosecutors finally admitted the awful truth – that the boys had been coerced into confessing to a crime that they did not commit.

References

There is a wealth of information on false confessions in your local law library (usually located in the county’s main courthouse). Here is a list of suggested reading if you are interested in learning more about false confessions or the implantation of false memories:

Blagrove, M. (1996). Effects of length of sleep deprivation on interrogative suggestibility. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 2(1), 48-59.

Clancy, S. A., Schacter, D. L., McNally, R. J., & Pitman, R. K. (2000). False recognition in women reporting recovered memories of sexual abuse. Psychological Science, 11(1), 26-31.

Deese, J. (1959). On the prediction of occurrence of particular verbal intrusions in immediate recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58(1), 17-22.

Garry, M., Manning, C. G., Loftus, E. F., & Sherman, S. J. (1996). Imagination inflation: imagining a childhood event inflates confidence that it occurred. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 3(2), 208-214.

Garry, M., & Polascheck, D. L. L. (2000). Imagination and memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9(1), 6-10.

Gudjonsson, G. H. (2003). The psychology of interrogations and confessions: A handbook: New York, NY, US: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.(2003). xviii, 684 pp.

Heaps, C., & Nash, M. (1999). Individual differences in imagination inflation. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 6(2), 313-318.

Horselenberg, R., Merckelbach, H., & Josephs, S. (2003). Individual differences and false confessions: a conceptual replication of Kassin and Kiechel (1996). Psychology, Crime & Law, 9, 1-8.

Horselenberg, R., Merckelbach, H., Muris, P., Rassin, E., Sijsenaar, M., & Spaan, V. (2000). Imagining fictitious childhood events: the role of individual differences in imagination inflation. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 7, 128-137.

Kassin, S. M. (1997). The psychology of confession evidence. American Psychologist, 52(3), 221-233.

Kassin, S. M., & Kiechel, K. L. (1996). The social psychology of false confessions: compliance, internalization, and confabulation. Psychological Science, 7(3), 125-128.

Mazzoni, G. A. L., Loftus, E. F., & Kirsch, I. (2001). Changing beliefs about implausible autobiographical events: A little plausibility goes a long way. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 7(1), 51-59.

McDermott, K. B. (1996). The persistence of false memories in list recall. Journal of Memory and Language, 35, 212-230.

McDermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L., III. (1998). Attempting to avoid illusory memories: robust false recognition of associates persists under conditions of explicit warnings and immediate testing. Journal of Memory and Language, 39, 508-520.

Payne, J. D., Nadel, L., Allen, J. B., Thomas, K. G. F., & Jacobs, W. J. (2002). The effects of experimentally induced stress on false recognition. Memory, 10, 1-6.

Roediger, H. L., III, & McDermott, K. B. (1995). Creating false memories: remembering words not presented in lists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21(4), 803-814.
https://www.relentlessdefense.com/foren ... nfessions/ or https://archive.is/sTjvk
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
— Herbert Spencer

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Re: The Psychology of False Confessions / Why people confess to crimes they did not commit

Postby Hannover » 1 year 2 days ago (Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:28 pm)

Lamprecht:
In online debates, sometimes I notice revisionists making big mistakes. A notable example is when a false "confession" is posted, one of the first reactions is to suggest that the individual in question was tortured.

It rather appears that you then go ahead and list situations, treatments, behaviors, and tactics used against the accused that certainly could be described as torture.
Torture comes in many forms besides beatings and testicle smashing.

Regards, Hannover

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Re: The Psychology of False Confessions / Why people confess to crimes they did not commit

Postby Lamprecht » 11 months 3 weeks ago (Wed Oct 23, 2019 8:18 pm)

The Six Million: Fact or Fiction - CHAPTER 8: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CONFESSIONS
http://web.archive.org/web/201910240108 ... sions.html or https://archive.is/y59sD

I will not copy paste the entire chapter here, but the link above is from Peter Winter's 7th edition (2018) of his book "The Six Million: Fact or Fiction". Winter quotes Grubach who explains why Germans would "Confess" to crimes they did not commit in these post-war trials. Since the "Holocaust" was treated as a proven fact (mainly via "Judicial notice" and "denial" laws) claiming that an extermination of jews did not take place simply was not a defense in these trials. "It was out of the question for them to contest this in court, so they simply built their defense strategies accordingly."

They were for the most part focused on their own acquittal or a shorter prison sentence -- not defending the Third Reich from these monstrous charges against it. Therefore, "To the defendants it must have seemed the most expedient course not to dispute that the alleged murders occurred, only that they were involved in them."

Winter further debunks the Suchomel "Confession" in Claude Lanzmann's 1985 "Shoah" Movie.
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
— Herbert Spencer

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Re: The Psychology of False Confessions / Why people confess to crimes they did not commit

Postby Lamprecht » 2 months 1 day ago (Mon Aug 17, 2020 2:06 pm)

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
— Herbert Spencer

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Re: The Psychology of False Confessions / Why people confess to crimes they did not commit

Postby Archie » 2 months 22 minutes ago (Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:15 pm)

No, no, no. This stuff only applies when you are trying to get common criminals out of jail (especially "underprivileged minorities"). :wink:

More seriously, though, most of this kind of research does come from a liberal perspective on criminal justice. What's funny is that liberal lawyers and academics (Jews in particular) are all about rights of the accused, presumption of innocence, due process, exact procedures, etc., but that all goes out the window when you are dealing with "Nazis."

Here's an interesting snippet on interrogation and confession from a police perspective.

It is not unusual for an individual criminal to minimize his part in a collective crime; the turbulent dynamics of crowds drives teenage boys, especially, to do spectacularly awful things together that they never would do alone. It is a corollary of the “bystander effect,” in which notions of personal responsibility are diffused when larger numbers of people are present.

In an investigation, a detective has a responsibility to search for the truth in a case, in the beginning and at the end. After any number of open-ended interviews are conducted, a suspect may emerge. The interview then shifts to interrogation, which is a conversation intended to obtain inculpatory statements. Denial often breaks down in stages: “I wasn’t there” becomes, “I was there, but I didn’t do anything,” before you get, “I was only the lookout, my buddy was the shooter.” The buddy may have made the opposite claim about who did what.

While it’s preferable to elicit the unvarnished, unvacillating truth, dishonest statements can be more illuminating than honest ones. When I went from New York to Los Angeles to talk to a fugitive who had killed his wife, stabbing her a dozen times, I was content with his admission that he’d accidentally tripped and fallen on her, while he was holding a knife. His lie was more revelatory than a candid disclosure, as he’d admitted not only to his guilt, but also to his abiding dishonesty and lack of regret. The self-portrait he’d painted for me would begin the story for a jury; the autopsy report would finish it. He took a plea.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-myth-of-the-central-park-five

It's rare that someone just blurts out a full, detailed confession. A guilty man will start out making up lies. But after a while even a slick liar will eventually begin to contradict himself or contradict the known facts. When confronted with these contradictions, the story starts to fall apart and this often leads to a confession.

A key point I think is that it "shifts to interrogation" when the detectives think have have their man. They get a sense of who's guilty and then try to get the guy to crack. This usually works because their instincts are usually right. But if they get fixed on the wrong man and then push him, they may get a false confession out of him.

At Nuremberg and subsequent trials there was no whodunnit going on. There was broad presumption of guilt on the entire nation. And in terms of confessions they didn't get any out of the defendants, just a handful of lower level guys like Ohlendorf, Wisliceny, and Hoess. With the Hoess confession, we have a signed statement that sounds like a Soviet atrocity report. You do not get such cooperative testimony and confessions unless the guys perceive such cooperation to be in their interests. It's all about incentives.


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