“Crocodile Tears” Don’t Fool Us

Do you think its easy to fake remorse?

New research out of the Centre for the Advancement of Psychology and Law at University of British Columbia and Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, suggests that it may not be as easy as you’d think.

For the first time, researchers Leanne ten Brinke , Sarah MacDonald, Stephen Porter, and Brian O’Connor investigated the behavioral clues to spot fabricated versus genuine displays of remorse. Their study called “Crocodile tears: facial, verbal and body language behaviours associated with genuine and fabricated remorse” was published this year in Law and Human Behavior.

The Canadian researchers showed that “those who fake remorse show a greater range of emotional expressions and swing from one emotion to another very quickly – a phenomenon referred to as emotional turbulence – as well as speak with more hesitation”.

The research done by these scientists also plays a role in deception detection.

Ten Brinke and colleagues also “examined the facial, verbal and body language behaviors associated with emotional deception in videotaped accounts of true personal wrongdoing, with either genuine or fabricated remorse, among 31 Canadian undergraduate students”.

They analyzed nearly 300,000 frames and discovered that those participants who displayed false remorse (crocodile tears) displayed more of the seven universal emotions (anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise) than those who were genuinely sorry.

According to an article on Eureka Alert, “The authors grouped the emotions displayed in facial expressions into three categories: positive (happiness), negative (sadness, fear, anger, contempt, disgust) and neutral (neutral, surprise). They found that participants who were genuinely remorseful did not often swing directly from positive to negative emotions, but went through neutral emotions first. In contrast, those who were deceiving the researchers made more frequent direct transitions between positive and negative emotions, with fewer displays of neutral emotions in between. In addition, during fabricated remorse, students had a significantly higher rate of speech hesitations than during true remorse”.

One response to ““Crocodile Tears” Don’t Fool Us”

  1. Keith D. says:

    The lack of hesitation in genuine remorse seems fitting to me. Being remorseful I would expect to carry an emotion of sadness, and sadness is an emotion of helplessness seeking support, comfort, or assistance from others. Because of that, hesitation in speech would be counter to the motivation of the emotion and wouldn’t seem to fit.

    But I don’t think that having some hesitation necessarily always indicates a lack of genuine remorse, but it very well could indicate a lesser degree of genuine remorse, if that makes sense.

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