Why People Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit


American police interrogations are built on the assumption that innocent people never confess to crimes they didn’t commit. But in fact, false confessions are fairly common. The evidence that they occur with some frequency really began to pile up in the 1990s, when DNA evidence began to exonerate convicted criminals–including many who had confessed. Since then, researchers have classified known false confession cases into three categories. Some innocent people confess voluntarily in order to attract attention. Others confess to appease an aggressive inves-tigator, desperate to put an end to a grueling interrogation–these are called “compliant” false confessions. And still other people offer “internalized” false confessions: In the interrogation process, they actually become momentarily persuaded that they’re guilty. Here are a few notable examples of these three varieties of self-incrimination.