Self-reported false confessions within a clinical forensic population

Wendy Paton, Stella A. Bain, Lynsey Gozna, Elizabeth Gilchrist

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


There is a lack of research examining false confessions within UK forensic populations and, in particular, within clinical forensic populations. The study examined whether personality traits, suggestibility, self-esteem, and criminal thinking styles differentiated false confessors from non-confessors.

This non-experimental, exploratory study examined self-reported false confessions within a sample of patients from a high secure hospital.

Seventy-nine male patients were invited to participate. The twenty-two patients who agreed to participate completed the International Personality Item Pool Scale, Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles, and the Paulhus Deception Scale. After completing the tools, participants were asked about their experiences of police interviews and if they had ever made a false confession.

Eight participants claimed they had made a false confession. Data were analysed using independent t-tests. False confessors had significantly higher scores for the criminal thinking style of cognitive indolence than non-confessors. False confessors also had higher mean scores for the remaining criminal thinking styles. In terms of self-esteem, false confessors obtained a higher mean score than non-confessors and the difference was approaching significance. There was no significant difference in personality traits and suggestibility between false confessors and non-confessors.

The findings appear to suggest that the criminal thinking style of cognitive indolence may be a stronger predictor of false confessions than personality traits and suggestibility. Given that criminal thinking styles may influence the decision to make a false confession during a police interview, further research with a larger sample is required.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2019
EventBritish Psychological Society Division of Forensic Psychology: Annual Conference 2019 - Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Jun 201920 Jun 2019


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society Division of Forensic Psychology
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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