A confession is a statement – made by a person or by a group of
persons – acknowledging some personal fact that the person (or the
group) would ostensibly prefer to keep hidden. The term presumes that
the speaker is providing information that he believes the other party
is not already aware of, and is frequently associated with an
admission of a moral or legal wrong:
In one sense it is the acknowledgment of having done something wrong,
whether on purpose or not. Thus confessional texts usually provide
information of a private nature previously unavailable. What a sinner
tells a priest in the confessional, the documents criminals sign
acknowledging what they have done, an autobiography in which the
author acknowledges mistakes, and so on, are all examples of
Not all confessions reveal wrongdoing, however. For example, a
confession of love is often considered positive both by the confessor
and by the recipient of the confession, and is a common theme in
literature. With respect to confessions of wrongdoing, there are
several specific kinds of confessions that have significance beyond
the social. A legal confession involves an admission of some
wrongdoing that has legal consequence, while the concept of confession
in religion varies widely across various belief systems, and is
usually more akin to a ritual by which the person acknowledges
thoughts or actions considered sinful or morally wrong within the
confines of the confessor's religion. In some religions, confession
takes the form of an oral communication to another person. Socially,
however, the term may refer to admissions that are neither legally nor
4 See also
6 External links
Confession often benefits the confessant.
Paul Wilkes characterizes
confession as "a pillar of mental health" because of its ability to
relieve anxieties associated with keeping secrets. Confessants are
more likely to confess when the expected benefits outweigh the
marginal costs (when the benefit of the offense to them is high, the
cost to the victim is low, and the probability of information leakage
is high). People may undertake social confessions in order to
relieve feelings of guilt or to seek forgiveness from a wronged party,
but such confessions may also serve to create social bonds between the
confessant and the confessor, and may prompt the listener to reply
with confessions of their own. A person may therefore confess
wrongdoing to another person as a means of creating such a social
bond, or of extracting reciprocal information from the other
person. A confession may be made in a self-aggrandizing manner, as
a way for the confessant to claim credit for a misdeed for the purpose
of eliciting a reaction to that claim.
Confession (law) and Statement against interest
In law, there is an exception to the hearsay rule that allows
testimony concerning someone else's confession to be admitted if the
statement had a great enough tendency "to expose the declarant to
civil or criminal liability". The theory is that a reasonable person
would not make such a false confession. In U.S. law, a confession
must be voluntary in order to be admissible.
Confessions (whether forced or otherwise) may feature in formal or
informal show trials.
Public confessions play a role in struggle sessions and in other
methods of social control and influence involving
Atonement in Judaism
^ a b c d e Roger W. Shuy, The Language of Confession, Interrogation,
and Deception (1998), p. 2–10.
^ Jorge J. E. Gracia, A Theory of Textuality: The Logic and
Epistemology (1995), p. 94–95.
^ Giulio Marra, Shakespeare and this "imperfect" World: Dramatic Form
and the Nature of Knowing (1997), p. 69, describing "the distinction
between "to do" and "to confess", between having thoughts of love and
confessing one's love, between the indetermination of a feeling and
its final definition", as a theme that "creeps into the various
^ Charles Emil Kany, The Beginnings of the Epistolary Novel in France,
Italy and Spain (1937), Volume 21, Issues 1-6, p. 19.
^ Wilkes, Paul (2012). The Art of Confession: Renewing Yourself
Through the Practice of Honesty. Workman Publishing. p. xi.
Confession is also a pillar of mental health,
for confession is about self-examination. It demands something for
which there is no substitute: that we be honest with ourselves.
^ Sznycer, Daniel; Schniter, Eric; Tooby, John; Cosmides, Leda (5
September 2014). "Regulatory adaptations for delivering information:
The case of confession". Evolution and Human Behavior.
^ "Rule 804.
Hearsay Exceptions; Declarant Unavailable". LII / Legal
Information Institute. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
^ "18 U.S. Code § 3501 - Admissibility of confessions". LII / Legal
Information Institute. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
^ Note for example: Cook, Alexander C. (2016). "Testimony". The
Cultural Revolution on Trial: Mao and the Gang of Four. Cambridge
University Press. p. 118. ISBN 9781316785096. Retrieved
2017-09-08. [...] there is no evidence, either in the available
documents or in Wang Hongwen's shallow personality, to suggest he
arrived at his confession through a searching self-examination in the
manner of Nikolai Bukharin's elaborately conceived philosophical
confession presented in his Stalin-era show trial.
^ Williams, Philip F.; Wu, Yenna (2004). "The PRC Prison Camp (II):
From Struggle Sessions to Release or Death". The Great Wall of
Confinement: The Chinese Prison Camp Through Contemporary Fiction and
Reportage. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 115.
ISBN 9780520244023. Retrieved 2017-09-08. During a 'study'
session, the person receiving criticism usually makes a substantial
verbal response of some sort. [...] In contrast, objects of a struggle
session are typically expected to bow their heads contritely, bend
forward at the waist, and succinctly confess their guilt [ren zui].
[...] The required parts of the struggle session ritual include the
stage or platform where the bowed objects of the strugle stand
contritely next to gesticulating and slogan-shouting cadres or other
leaders, along with the audience seated nearby, who parrot the slogans
in a shouted refrain. For example, Song Shan remarks that all
seventy-six times she was subjected to a struggle session in front of
thousands of people, the format of the event was exactly the
^ Mead, George Herbert (2015) . "The Social Foundations and
Functions of Thought and Communication". In Morris, Charles W. Mind,
Self, and Society: The Definitive Edition. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press. p. 255. ISBN 9780226112879. Retrieved
2017-09-08. [...] through self-criticism, social control over
individual behavior or conduct operates by virtue of the social origin
and basis of such criticism. That is to say, self-criticism is
essentially social criticism, and behavior controlled by
self-criticism is essentiall behavior controlled socially.
^ Pennebaker, James W. (2012). "12:
Confession in Context: Therapy
Religion and Brainwashing". Opening Up: The Healing Power of
Expressing Emotions. New York: The Guilford Press. p. 172.
ISBN 9781462504848. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
Confession also occurs
outside religious institutions. Within political systems that actively
discourage religion, such as offshoots of Marxism, forms of confession
or self-criticism are fostered.
Look up confession in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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