A new study finds some people under interrogation will confess to crimes they did not commit, either to end the questioning or because they become convinced they did it.
An unrelated study last year found it is fairly easy to create false memories in people in a lab setting.
Lack of sleep and isolation contribute to false confessions, the scientists say in the new study, announced today. A suspect's mental status and lack of education play roles.
Police are often not qualified to judge truth versus deception, the researchers argue.
In the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, the scientists call for videotaping of confessions so they can be properly analyzed by experts.
"Modern police interrogations involve the use of high-impact social influence techniques [and] sometimes people under the influence of certain techniques can be induced to confess to crimes they did not commit," write Saul Kassin of Williams College and Gisli Gudjonsson of King's College, University of London.
A University of Michigan study last year reached the same conclusion in analyzing 328 cases since 1989 in which DNA exoneration defendants convicted of rape, murder and other serious crimes.