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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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