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Clues May Reveal When a Person Is Faking Remorse

FRIDAY, Feb. 11 (HealthDay News) -- When someone is trying to fake remorse, they display a greater range of emotional expressions, switching from one emotion to another very quickly, and speak with more hesitation, researchers have found.

The findings could prove valuable to judges and parole board members, who look for genuine remorse when they make sentencing and parole release decisions, according to the study authors.

The Canadian researchers examined the facial, verbal and body language behavior associated with emotional deception among 31 volunteers who gave videotaped accounts of true personal wrongdoing, with either genuine or fake remorse.

Compared to participants who were genuinely sorry, those who faked remorse displayed more of the seven universal emotions -- happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise and contempt.

The fakers also made more frequent direct transitions between positive and negative emotions, with fewer displays of neutral emotions in between. They also had a much higher rate of speech hesitation, according to the report, which was released online Feb. 8 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Law and Human Behavior.

"Our study is the first to investigate genuine and falsified remorse for behavioral cues that might be indicative of such deception," Leanne ten Brinke and colleagues, from the Centre for the Advancement of Psychology and Law at the University of British Columbia and Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, wrote in a journal news release.

"Identifying reliable cues could have considerable practical implications -- for example forensic psychologists, parole officers and legal decisionmakers who need to assess the truthfulness of remorseful displays," the authors suggested.

More information

The Max Plank Institute has more about universal emotions.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Law and Human Behavior, news release, Feb. 9, 2011

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