Crocodile Tears: Facial, Verbal and Body Language Behaviours Associated with Genuine and Fabricated Remorse
Emotional deception is a common behaviour that can have major consequences if undetected. For example, the sincerity of an offender’s expressed remorse is an important factor in sentencing and parole hearings. The present study was the first to investigate the nature of true and false remorse. We examined facial, verbal and body language behaviours associated with emotional deception in videotaped accounts of true personal transgressions accompanied by either genuine or falsified remorse. Analyses of nearly 300,000 frames indicated that descriptions of falsified remorse were associated with a greater range of emotional expressions. Further, sequential analyses revealed that negative emotions were more commonly followed by other emotions—rather than a return to neutral emotion—in falsified versus sincere remorse. Participants also exhibited more speech hesitations while expressing deceptive relative to genuine remorse. In general, the results suggest that falsified remorse may be conceived as an emotionally turbulent display of deliberate, falsified expressions and involuntary, genuine, emotional leakage. These findings are relevant to judges and parole board members who consider genuine remorse to be an important factor in sentencing and release decisions.