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Detecting Deception

Interrogation: Letting the Game Come to You

Recently I was working on a couple of interrogation tapes that some agencies ask me to review and soon after presented two of my Level 3 & 4 classes.  On the fourth day of this class, students get the opportunity to participate in live interviews with volunteer subjects from a nearby correctional facility.  In both instances, I was struck by the fact that the interviewers felt the need to “drive” the interview or interrogation.  In each case the goal of the interviewer was to find the truth but during their big push I noticed the interviewers were missing some subtle but yet extremely important responses by their subjects.  As interviewers we need to learn how to just “steer” an interview and “let the game come to us.”

With the initiation of the narration phase of any interview I have a set of goals I hope to achieve. First, I want to elicit a full and complete uninterrupted statement from my subject so that I can a.) identify if the individual is evading, withholding, omitting, altering, or overlooking critical information that I need for my investigation and b.) if they are evading, withholding or altering information is it with the deliberate intent to mislead me. If I assume a “driving” type of approach I often push the subject away from or race past issues that may be critical to my analysis and ultimately my case. Think of this like driving at night – we can “over drive” our headlights.  We’ll have little or no time to react to any road changes or hazards that we illuminate with our headlights because we plowing through the darkness full speed ahead.  By slowing down even just a little in the room I can allow a subject’s reactions and responses to develop a little more fully.  Now as the interviewer I can “steer” the interview into this areas and thereby giving me more time and as well many more opportunities to react to my subject and the issues that are obviously significant to them.

No one likes being “driven” into what they may perceive is a emotionally or mentally threatening situation.  Any one of us would immediately start to resist in at least a passive if not aggressive form.  Our fight or flight responses have been automatically triggered by the feeling we may be heading for a trap. In two different interviews in two different advanced classes, I spotted the same “driving” technique being used by students on their inmate volunteers.  I’m sure that with their new skills my students certainly wanted to unleash all their newly acknowledge on the poor unsuspecting inmate but I could them missing some key issues. Doing something I rarely do, I wrote a note to each interviewer basically telling them to slow down, allow the subject time to develop their responses and notice their reactions. In other words, “let the game come to you.”  In both cases,  there was an immediately significant increase in the subjects’ reactions as well as the quantity and quality of information – both spoken and unspoken.

We don’t need to “drive” our subjects during the interview – just “steer.” If we need to get a full and complete narrative from our subject and then fairly test the accuracy of our subject’s statements, then we are going to have to learn to “let the game come to us.”

Evasion vs. Deception

by Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

A common belief held by many investigative interviewers and most people in general is that when a person is being deceptive that their statements are literally saturated with deceit. Results of numerous studies of deception behavior does not support this conclusion.  In reality, people engage in evasion far more often than they do pure deception.

My colleague Dr. Martha Davis and I studied the video taped interrogations from 36 felony cases investigated by the New York Police Department.  Our study focused on identifying the verbal and nonverbal cues to deception by subjects in situations where there was significant jeopardy for the subject if their evasion and deception attempts failed.  One of the general observations we made that was very consistent with the results of previously published studies of deception was that people are far more evasive than deceptive.

Sustaining pure deception can be a difficult process for most people.  This is not to say that lying is “hard” but one’s ability to first create a deception and then sustain it under scrutiny is what is difficult.  Let’s face it.  The “deception” liar must remember the truth that they are attempting to hide and their first deception presentation.  Next when their previous lie is challenged they must create a new lie that dovetails with the first deception and most often it must be created on the fly.  At the same time they must leave the new lie open ended enough in case they are required to lie some more.  This a daunting task for anyone.

The most common technique the majority people including suspects use to avoid the truth is to practice evasion. Simple evasion does not require a great deal of creative thinking on the part of your deceitful suspect.  Evasion also does not require that one have a particularly acute memory just tell as much of the truth as possible.  Also consider the observations and reactions of the person who is the target of the lie because the lie teller is doing that very same thing.  Pure deception is more likely to raise the suspicions of the lie target that evasion.

The conclusion we can make is that subjects are far more likely to be evasive than deceptive.  The conclusion of our research drew an interesting parallel observation.  Investigative interviewers are more likely to diagnose the stress behaviors of evasion as markers of deception.  Deception behaviors generated by a subject are in fact rare.