Taking responsibility for an act not committed: the influence of age and suggestibility

Law Hum Behav. 2003 Apr;27(2):141-56. doi: 10.1023/a:1022543012851.


Inherent in false confessions is a person taking responsibility for an act he or she did not commit. The risk of taking such responsibility may be elevated in juveniles. To study possible factors that influence individuals' likelihood for taking responsibility for something they did not do, participants in a laboratory experiment were led to believe they crashed a computer when in fact they had not. Participants from 3 age groups were tested: 12- and 13-year-olds, 15- and 16-year-olds, and young adults. Half of the participants in each age group were presented with false evidence indicating liability. Additionally, suggestibility was investigated as a potential individual-difference factor affecting vulnerability to admissions of guilt. Results showed that younger and more suggestible participants were more likely than older and less suggestible participants to falsely take responsibility. Implications of these findings for juvenile justice are discussed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Crime*
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Suggestion*
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • United States