Voluntary false confession: An act of altruism?


  • Réka Gyenis




Why would innocent men choose to confess to a crime? In this article, we try to find some answers to this question. In criminal organizations, for example the Mafia, falsely confessing to hinder the work of the police seems to be an existent practice. We argue that Mafiosi have good reasons to view a police interrogation as a possibility for altruistic helping: by confessing, they sacrifice themselves to confuse the police and thus help the criminal organization. In an experimental paradigm, we tested this conceptualization: 61 university students were asked to confess to unintentional property damage. By doing so, they allegedly helped a certain faculty to get a large sum of money from an insurance company. Students who were members of this faculty confessed more often (15 out of 30) than students from other faculties (7 out of 31), even though students could not directly benefit from the insurance fraud. We argue that forces of altruistic helping are at play. The question of altruism and group-membership should be researched further in the context of false confessions and organized crime.


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