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Detecting Deception

Scarcity – A Tool of Influence

by Stan B. Walters
“The Lie Guy®”

How often have each of us encountered the subject in our interview room who even after being faced with the nearly undeniable facts proving their involvement in the incident we are investigating, appears to be completely unmovable in their determination not to admit to their actions. We often feel that such moments could turn into fruitless “yes you will – no I won’t” situations. We can literally almost see, feel and even hear the admission or confession within our grasp. How can we persuade the subject to take the one last step to acceptance? The answer may be found in a simple tool of human influence – scarcity.

Experts in the field of study known as human influence tell us that for many people the idea of any form of potential loss plays a very large role in human decision making. It can have such an enormous motivating affect on us that we can become so focused on what we may lose that people have been to known to forget about gaining something else of equal or greater value. This basic tool of influence can be easily employed as an effective interview and interrogation tool.

We have all seen ads that pronounce “For a Limited Time Only”, “While Supplies Last”, “For The First Fifty Customers.” Think of how easily this can be translated for our needs as interviewers. After having placed ourselves in the position of authority, perhaps you want to impress on you subject that once the case moves on to the next level there may be little either you or your subject can do to control what happens next. If he or she leaves today without making their statement then all the rumors will start that will certainly not be fair to the subject.

Your subject could be reminded that at this moment they may be able to have some influence on their fate. They could resign now or wait until they are fired and it goes on their record. We want to create in the subject a sense of urgency. That for the subject, the time to act is now before events spiral out of control such that no one can affect the outcome. He or she can be made to feel that few if anyone outside of you as the interviewer could possibly be on the side of the subject, would be willing to listen to their position or to or even not tell others about the subject true feelings or actions.

By using scarcity as a tool of influence we are not offering leniency. We are not promising the subject that there will be no punishment for their actions or behavior. We are certainly going to be cautious that we are not eliciting a false confession. We are only reinforcing the subject’s desire to avoid losing all control of the situation, it’s outcome or future circumstances. What is your subject most early of losing at the risk of giving up what they could possibly gain by continuing to resist facing the truth.

Voice Quality Changes – Truth or Deception
(A Deception Research Update)

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

Among the multiple channels of communication that a person can use, the “voice channel” possesses three sub-channels: verbal content, thought line and voice quality. Voice quality is defined as the rate of speech, voice pitch and volume. The question for the interviewer is “Are any changes in voice quality characteristics broadcast by the subject reliable cues of deception?”

To answer this question, research studies have been testing the significance of voice changes exhibited by subjects in “live” interviews and interrogations. In the past, deception studies have used “staged” or “controlled” settings that allow for consistent interview conditions but don’t reflect real life reactions seen by interviewers. An extensive research study has been conducted using live interrogations in which a subject’s specific statements have been confirmed as truthful or deceptive. Voice quality changes where among the behavioral changes analyzed by the observers for their ability to isolate truthful from deceptive statements.

Results from this study have determined that when a subject is not experiencing elevated levels of stress and was at the same time being truthful, the subject did not show any significant voice quality changes. Obviously there is not much of a surprise in the results of this part of the study but we do have a critical baseline measurement. When the subject was under stress the voice quality cues did in fact show significant increase in the pitch of the voice, volume and the words per minute or at least in some of variation or combination of the characteristics. Interestingly, the subject was not being deceptive at the same time the voice quality changes occurred.

When false or deceptive statements where analyzed for the presence of voice quality changes, some interesting results were revealed. It was learned that as expected, subjects under significant stress and being deceptive did show changes in voice quality. However, it was also learned that deceptive subjects who are under stress might not show any significant changes in voice quality.

The conclusion about voice quality changes is that such changes can occur when subjects are being both truthful and deceptive and are therefore not reliable signs of deception. In addition, voice quality changes can be associated with an increase in stress in a subject but the lack of voice quality changes do not mean that your subject is not experiencing elevated levels of stress. He or she may in fact be able to exhibit their stress through other verbal or nonverbal channels.