Voluntary False Confessions

Voluntary false confessions are offered by individuals without any external pressure from the police. Commonly, the individuals go voluntarily to the police to confess to a crime they may have read about in the press or seen reported on television. Often, they do so out of a morbid desire for notoriety because the individual seemingly has a pathological desire to become infamous, even at the risk of facing possible imprisonment.

Alternatively, a voluntary false confession may result from the individual's unconscious need to expiate guilty feelings through receiving punishment. The guilt may concern real or imagined past transgressions or, occasionally, may be part of the constant feeling of guilt felt by some individuals with a poor self-image and high levels of trait anxiety.

By contrast, some people making this type of confession do so because they are unable to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Such individuals are unable to differentiate between real events and events that originate in their thinking, imagination, or planning. Such a breakdown in reality monitoring is normally associated with major psychiatric illness, such as schizophrenia.

Occasionally, people may volunteer a false confession to assist or protect the real culprit. Gudjonsson (52) highlights some evidence that confessing to crimes to protect others may be particularly common in juvenile delinquents.

Finally, Shepherd (53) identifies a subset of individuals who falsely confess to crimes to preempt further investigation of a more serious crime.

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