LieSpotting; Phraseology of a Lie.

swearing bible

Why did Bill Clinton say, “I did not have sex with that woman.” rather than “I didn’t have sex with that woman.”?  (See Number 3 below for the specific answer.)

Because lying is hard work.  It requires activating different areas of the brain not normally in play during truthful storytelling, controlling one’s physical responses that lying normally elicits and being particularly attentive to the questions being asked.  Fortunately, one of the most reliable methods of lie detection comes from the liar herself. Her words.  Unless you are dealing with an out-and-out clinically pathological liar (and even they will trip up from time to time), it’s fairly simple to hang a liar by her own verbal statements.

We work with various law enforcement agencies that ask us to analyze suspects’ verbal interviews, and over considerable time, have developed a checklist on LieSpotting – the art science of taking apart a lair’s verbal response through verbiage analysis.

Below are 10 common ways that liars use words to obscure the truth:

    1. Liars will repeat a question verbatim. Hey Mike, did you send the email to Karen? Did I send the email to Karen? If this is Mike’s response, you have your answer—he didn’t send it yet. Repeating a question in full is a common stalling tactic used by people looking for an extra moment to prepare their lie. In natural conversation, people will sometimes repeat part of a question, but restating the entire question is highly awkward and unnecessary—they clearly heard you the first time.
    2. Liars will take a guarded tone. If Mike had replied to the question by lowering his voice and asking,  What do you mean?, a lie may well be in the processing of formation. A suspicious or guarded approach isn’t generally called for with a basic question, and the guarded tone taken may indicate that he’s concealing something—usually the truthful answer to your question.
    3. Liars won’t use contractions in their denials.  Providing the classic example of what interrogators call “non-contracted denial” is Bill Clinton when he said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” The extra emphasis in the denial is unnecessary if someone is telling the truth. I didn’t have sex with her is how the honest person is likely to phrase his claim of innocence. Clinton said a lot more than he realized with his words.
    4. Liars tell stories in strict chronology. To keep their stories straight, liars tend to stick to exact chronological accounts when relating an event. They have enough to think about in creating the lie.  But this isn’t how we ordinarily talk when being truthful. When recounting stories, honest people will tell them they way they remember the events – in emotional order rather than strict chronological order. Often we’ll start off with the most impactful emotional moment, and move around in time order to add details that are not in the primary recall.
    5. Liars love euphemisms. It’s human nature not to implicate ourselves in wrongdoing. This holds especially true for liars, who will shy away from strict definitions of their actions, often opting for less harsh language, for example; instead of saying “I didn’t steal the purse” they may say “I didn’t take the purse.” If asked a direct question and your wording is modified/softened in the response, you are being lied to.
    6. Liars overemphasize their truthfulness.  There’s no need to add modifiers such as  “To tell you the truth…” “Honestly…” “I swear to you…” if you really are telling the truth.  When people bolster their response with these type phrases, there’s a strong chance that they are hiding something or not telling the full truth.  There’s no reason for the extraneous words.
    7. Liars avoid or confuse pronouns. We use a good amount of pronouns in normal conversation. They are a sign of comfortable speech, and they may disappear when one is lying. A liar may say “You don’t bill hours that you didn’t work” instead of making the clear first- person statement: “I don’t bill hours I didn’t work.”
    8. Liars use long introductions but skip over main events.  Deceptive individuals will add more detail – particularly around the prologue of a story – but glide over the main event when lying. This lopsided storytelling style is specific to those intent on deception.
    9. Liars give very specific denials. Liars tend to be very particular in what they say and don’t say. Truth-tellers have no problem issuing categorical denials—I never cheated anyone in my whole life—whereas the liar will choose his words ever so carefully – I never cheated on my husband  during the period of our marriage. (Well, there’s the period of dating, engagement and separation and previous relationships that is not covered by that denial.)
    10. Liars hedge their statements. We hear them in court testimony, political speeches and interviews all the time: qualifying statements that give the person on the hot seat an “out” if their lie is uncovered.  “As far as I know…” “If you really think about it…” “What I recall is…” Hedged statements should make the interviewer wonder when the other shoe will drop.

The best liespotting detector is, of course, yourself – the experienced interviewer.  Very few people – statistically insignificant – can lie perfectly; giving a recall of the events in emotional (v. chronological) order, interjecting themselves directly into the lie and remember the non-existent details over an extended period of time.  If they could, they’d be professional spies.   Trust your instincts and listen very carefully to what is being said.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.


Is The Witness Lying To You? Reading & Responding To Body Language.

two faced woman

Our body language tells us more than we realize about our motives, our desires, and our true feelings.   The nonverbal tips that our bodies project are keys to our true thoughts.  

Whether you are a private investigator meeting a potential witness for the first time and obtaining a statement from her or a trial lawyer in court questioning a witness, the main issue is not having a baseline of the witness’ normal behavior.  I’m very good at detecting when my friends and family are not telling the truth. Why? I know them. I know their mannerisms, vocal intonation and speech patterns.

Lie detection, although far from being an exact science, has come a long way over the past several years. The problem is that many of the ways liars reveal themselves are not easily identifiable in a court room setting. For example, polygraphs work because most people have a physiological response to lying. It is difficult, however, to know that a person’s heart rate has increased or his hands have begun to sweat from looking at him across the court room. Pupil dilation is also a potential indicator of dishonesty, but if you are close enough to see a change in the witness’ pupils, you are surely invading that witness’s personal space and that is generally not a good move.  So in an experimental setting (i.e., research laboratory with polygraph machines) it may be possible to identify deceit from a physiological change. During a deposition, however, those methods are not a viable option.

So what other options are there?Several possible predictors of deception (outside of a laboratory setting) are:

  1. Voice pitch.  Even during little white lies, the pitch of the voice goes higher.  The greater the lie, the higher the pitch is a general rule of thumb we observe in the field.
  2. Rate of speech.  People tend to talk more when they are lying because they feel the need to convince the questioner and believe by including as many (albeit, fictional) details as possible, that they are providing a lot of information.  More is not always better.

The problem with relying on these two reactions however is that some people talk that way all of the time so you have to have a baseline for comparison before you can conclude that the witness is lying to you.    If you believe that a witness is lying to you in a courtroom because of the rapidity of her speech, what do you have to compare that to to make a determination of deceit? Therefore, if you suspect a witness is lying about a particular portion of her testimony, you should stop asking questions about it. Move on to another line of questioning to see if her demeanor relaxes. Then return to the original subject to see if she gets anxious again. This will help you determine if the witness is nervous about that particular line of questioning or just nervous in general.

The single best predictor of lying however is the quick, unconscious movement made by the person lying.  I.e., that the person is saying yes but shaking her head, indicating “no”.  Lie detection experts have reviewed countless videos of when a statement was made that was later found to be a lie, (e.g., President Clinton denying a relationship with Monica Lewinski; Alex Rodriguez denying the use of steroids in his interview with Katie Couric).  The person’s head movement was a consistent predictor of deception.  Therefore, if you suspect a witness is lying or not being wholly truthful during a particular aspect of her deposition, pay close attention to the movement of her head as she answers. Additionally, look for general inconsistencies in behavior. Does her body language match what she is saying? If you have a bad feeling about a witness, don’t ignore your instinct.

Basically, time is your friend during a deposition in establishing a baseline – as slim as it may be, it’s better than nothing.  If certain questions make the witness skittish, drop that line of inquiry quickly and when she least expects it, wrap right back to that particular point in her testimony.  Practice with your staff and you will be amazed at the accuracy rate of your instincts. (For obvious reasons and to lessen the turnover rate of employees, however, you may want to rethink that suggestion…)

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.



The Future of Lie Detection: Computer Voice Stress Analysis v. Polygraph


The heightened pace of the digital age is rapidly transforming lie detection reliance from the mostly commonly  used testing, polygraph, to computer-based voice stress testing (CVSA).

According to SpeechTechMag,

“Nearly 1,800 U.S. law enforcement agencies have dropped the polygraph in favor of newer computer voice stress analyzer (CVSA) technology to detect when suspects being questioned are not being honest, according to a report from the National Association of Computer Voice Stress Analysts.

Among those that have already made the switch are police departments in Atlanta, Baltimore, San Francisco, New Orleans, Nashville, and Miami, FL, as well as the California Highway Patrol and many other state and local law enforcement agencies.

In one of the most famous uses of  CVSA, after the fatal shooting of Floridian Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, Zimmerman was given a voice stress analysis test by the police department of Sanford, Florida. He passed the test.  A videotape of the test was publicly released in June 2012.

How does Computer Voice Stress Analysis work?

In a nutshell, CVSA works by measuring involuntary voice frequency changes that would indicate a high level of stress, as occurs when someone is lying. Muscles in the voice box tighten or loosen, which changes the sound of the voice, and that is what the CVSA technology registers.  The first CVSA devices came on the market in 1988.

(In contrast, the polygraph measures and records several physiological characteristics, such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration while the subject responds to a series of questions. The technology was developed in 1921.)

Who uses CVSA?

Employers, law enforcement, litigators and others with a vested interest in establishing the veracity of information or testimony.

How reliable is CVSA?

An 18 year study conducted by Dr. James L. Chapman, Professor Emeritus, Former Director of Forensic Crime Laboratory, State University of New York at Corning, evaluated the use of the Voice Stress Analysis technology for the detection of stress associated with possible deception. Using a combinatorial approach of VSA and a standardized questioning process, Dr. Chapman was able to show that VSA detected stress associated with criminal activities in 95% of the confession obtained cases studied. Dr. Chapman found no cases wherein a confession was obtained in the absence of stress. In particular, the most considerable stress levels were detected during the investigation of murder, grand larceny and sexual crimes. Dr. Chapman identified that when VSA is utilized as an investigative decision support tool in accordance with required operating procedures, and standard VSA interviewing techniques are employed, elicited confessions from criminal suspects can strongly be predicted based upon results of their VSA examinations. Further, VSA can be used by trained professionals to support the acquisition of court admissible criminal confessions at a rate superior to other legal interrogation methods currently employed by the criminal justice system

Source: Wikipedia

How does the court view CVSA?

A U.S. federal court in the Northern District of New York in early March, 2014 ruled that sex offenders can now be required to submit to CVSA examinations as part of their post-release supervision.

Why CVSA rather than polygraph?

  • Units can be carried into the field. The technology can be brought to the suspect rather than having to take the suspect to the technology.
  • Training is required to operate the CVSA, but the training is not nearly so expensive or so extensive as that required for a licensed polygraph examiner.
  • The changes in voice detected by the CVSA occur simultaneously with the speech, not in a delayed fashion as with the polygraph.
  • The CVSA is less physically intrusive. The suspect is not strapped down and wired.
  • The equipment itself is less expensive than a polygraph machine.

All in all, we see CVSA technology as the future of lie detection.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Read That Body (Language)

body language final

by Lina M. Maini

One of the most important tools in an investigator’s arsenal when questioning people is her  ability to quickly and accurately read the subject’s  body language.  Most people believe that they are exceptionally good at judging the physical stances and reactions of others.  Test yourself. If a subject’s feet are crossed at the ankle; significance?   A slightly tilted head and one that is overly tilted indicate two very different emotions.  What are they?  How does the investigator subliminally encourage the subject’s cooperation?

Obviously, use your common sense but, generally, the below tips on body language are rooted in the many studies and practical experiences in the field in decoding innate physiological reactions that occur when someone is confronted.

1. Physical Closeness. Slowly Does It. 

  • Does the subject appear comfortable with your physical presence in his environment?  We’ve all heard about one’s “personal space”, the approximate 18″ perimeter around oneself which, when breached, can either alarm or relax a person.  (Bear in mind that personal space is culturally fluid; what may be considered close in one country is distant in another.)   If the  person entering the personal space is a “friendly”, the subject is relaxed and welcoming; a relative stranger or an adversary entering this space is perceived as a threat and  will make the subject uncomfortable.
  • Know your intent: If you are seeking the subject’s cooperation, gradually draw yourself closer and gage the reaction.  When this personal space is accessed by gradual degrees, the result can be a more trusting environment, encouraging the subject to share information.

2. Head Position

  • Overly titled head are a sign of sympathy, potentially even playful/flirtatious.  (Be careful when encountering a subject employing this type head position as they may be intentionally trying to disarm or distract the questioner.)
  • A lowered head indicate that the subject may have reason to hide something.  It could be evasion, shyness, fear, disbelief or, s/he may be thinking to oneself or trying to decide whether to cooperate.  (Gage the reaction and act appropriately by either gently backtracking from the current line of questioning that prompted this reaction or move almost imperceptibly closer to the subject with hands in the up and open position – indicating empathic and trustworthiness.)
  • A slightly tilted head in your direction means that the subject is confused or judging or challenging you. (In this case, maintain eye contact and shift slightly horizontally which the subject perceives as your backing down as you’ve moved further away when in fact you’re exactly the same distance away, just in a different spot.)

3. The Eyes Have It.

People who look:

  • to the sides often  are nervous, lying,distracted or trying to hide something emotional.
  • away from the speaker are indicating that they are uncomfortable or submissive.
  • at the speaker with a questioning look are unconvinced or distrustful.
  • at the speaker with dilated pupils, (unless the subject is under the influence) indicate that they are interested.

4. The Mirror Effect.  

  • If someone mimics your body language this is a very genuine sign that they are trying to establish rapport with you. If you change your position from time to time and they do likewise, they are mirroring you.  This is a very useful tool for the investigator as the subject is fully engaged, sympathetic or empathetic and more likely to release information as their natural reservation is diminished by the effort of trying to keep pace with your physical movements.

5.  Check the Arms. 

  • Closed arms indicate that the subject has closed themselves off to outside influence.
  • Folded arms with the feet positioned shoulder length apart indicates a position of toughness or authority.
  • Rubbing their hands together or otherwise touching their body is an effort to comfort themselves, indicating their uncomfortableness with the current situation.
  • Arms resting behind their neck or head means that they are open to what is being discussed.
  • Arms on hips indicate irritation or impatience.
  • If their hands are closed, they could be angry or nervous.

6. Nervous Gestures.

  • If someone brushes their hair back with their fingers, this may be preening, a common gesture if the person likes you, or their thoughts about something conflict with yours. If their eyebrows are raised during this gesture, they do not agree with you.
  • If the person wears glasses, and is constantly pushing them up onto their nose again, with a slight frown, this may indicate that they disagree with what you are saying. Look to make sure they push up their glasses with an intent, not casually adjusting them. Look for pushing on the rim with two fingers, or an extra motion of wiggling the side of their glasses. The distinguishing feature is whether they are looking directly at you while doing it.
  • Lowered eyebrows and squinted eyes illustrate an attempt at understanding what is being said or going on. It’s usually skeptical.

7.  Watch their feet

  • A fast tapping, shifting of weight, or movement of the foot will most often mean that the person is impatient, excited, nervous, scared, or intimidated.
  • The meaning of feet tapping can usually be discerned depending on the context; if you are currently talking and they are tapping their feet, that is an indication of a desire to leave (though usually this behavior manifests when the person is anxious to get somewhere specific, such as a meeting, rather than because of what you’re doing specifically).
  • Slow shuffling indicates boredom with the current situation.
  • If the person is sitting, feet crossed at the ankles means they’re generally at ease.
  • If while standing, a person seems to always keep their feet very close together, it probably means they are trying to be “proper” in some way. Sometimes feet together means that they are feeling more submissive or passive.
  • Some people may point their feet to the direction of where they want to go or sometimes their interest.

Again, many external or unknown factors can influence a subject’s cooperation but being able to gauge the meaning of the subject’s body language expertly and correctly is usually the difference between a successful interview and a frustrating and fruitless one.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.