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Am Psychol. 2005 Apr;60(3):215-28.

On the psychology of confessions: does innocence put innocents at risk?

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Department of Psychology, Williams College, Williamstown, MA 01267, USA.


The Central Park jogger case and other recent exonerations highlight the problem of wrongful convictions, 15% to 25% of which have contained confessions in evidence. Recent research suggests that actual innocence does not protect people across a sequence of pivotal decisions: (a) In preinterrogation interviews, investigators commit false-positive errors, presuming innocent suspects guilty; (b) naively believing in the transparency of their innocence, innocent suspects waive their rights; (c) despite or because of their denials, innocent suspects elicit highly confrontational interrogations; (d) certain commonly used techniques lead suspects to confess to crimes they did not commit; and (e) police and others cannot distinguish between uncorroborated true and false confessions. It appears that innocence puts innocents at risk, that consideration should be given to reforming current practices, and that a policy of videotaping interrogations is a necessary means of protection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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