The role of self-esteem and locus-of-control in determining confession outcomes

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Accepted/In press

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Original languageEnglish
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StateAccepted/In press - 6 May 2019


Previous research suggests that self-esteem and locus-of-control are inversely related to compliance. There is also research to suggest that low self-esteem and external locus-of-control are associated with interrogative suggestibility. While it is believed that compliance and interrogative suggestibility are risk factors for falsely confessing, previous research has not directly examined the relationship between these personality variables and confession decisions made in an experimental paradigm where ground truth is known. The present study used the Russano paradigm and involved 104 participants recruited through the Glasgow Science Centre. Participants filled out personality questionnaires and a set of cognitive exercises with a confederate. As is standard for the paradigm, they were then accused of cheating. The researcher was not aware of whether participants were guilty or innocent. During the subsequent interview, which was based on conversation management, signed confession statements were sought, with these coded as true or false based on the participant’s condition. Results indicated that having an external locus-of-control was predictive of falsely confessing, rather than denying guilt. Self-esteem and time at which a confession was made did not affect the results. This paper discusses the implications of these findings and the study's limitations.


  • self-esteem, locus-of-control, confessions, individual differences, Russano paradigm