Crocodile Tears: Facial, Verbal and Body Language Behaviours Associated with Genuine and Fabricated Remorse

  • Leanne ten BrinkeEmail author
  • Sarah MacDonald
  • Stephen Porter
  • Brian O’Connor
Original Article


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.


Emotional Expression Facial Emotion Lower Face Emotional Facial Expression Parole Officer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Brendan Wallace and Natasha Korva for their contributions to this research. This project was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) through scholarships awarded to the first and second authors, as well as research grants awarded to the third and fourth authors.


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Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leanne ten Brinke
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah MacDonald
    • 2
  • Stephen Porter
    • 1
  • Brian O’Connor
    • 1
  1. 1.University of British ColumbiaKelownaCanada
  2. 2.Memorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada

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