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Human Behavior

Can We Suppress All Our Stress Signs & Lie Cues?

Stan B. Walters, CSP
“The Lie Guy®”

I recently read an article from a law enforcement news service to which I subscribe about a new video training program being produced and distributed by a former highway drug interdiction officer.  The pitch for the video indicated that the viewer would be taught how to hide all their drugs in vehicles in such a way that they could not be found during a traffic stop.  In addition, the viewer will be taught how not to raise a traffic officer’s suspicions during any stop and the correct answers to all the questions the driver would be asked.  My area of expertise has nothing to do with the interdiction skills, training or experience needed to spot hidden drug compartments, etc. However, the assumption by the producers of this video that they can teach someone how to control their behaviors and not be noticed by an officer with at least average interdiction experience has some major flaws.


I can not imagine any drug courier does not think about being stopped every time he or she makes a run.  In their mind I know they have imagined the incident, attempted to rehearsed their “cool” behavior and walk away unnoticed.  They may even try to anticipate all the questions they may be asked or even knows what they may be asked by the officer by learning from the mistakes made by other drug operators during their ill-fated stops. The one thing none of us can do in advance is prepare or rehearse the intellectual or emotional stress we my experience when we face the reality for which we have diligently rehearsed.


We can not simply “beat” someone at spotting our deception by merely knowing what they are going to ask us in advance.  One example would be a polygraph exam.  The subject knows the questions the examiner is going to ask because the examiner has worked on the questions with the examinee’s assistance!  How well do these subjects perform on those exams?  Just the anticipation alone that “the question” is or may be asked is enough to trigger significant emotional and cognitive reactions.


Our video producers have also demonstrated by their statements an extreme ignorance of the human processes of deception.  We practice the deception of others by attempting to show knowledge about something we do not know or hide knowledge of information we do in fact possess.  We are faking an emotion we are not currently experiencing or hiding an emotion we don’t want read. The video producers have told us they can teach us how to control all the behaviors that no one has ever been able to do with 100% success in the past.  Certainly an officer may miss some of the stress signs and deception cues a subject may be generating but that doesn’t mean the cues aren’t there.


Finally, while all this well planned “successful” ruse is being perpetrated by the driver who is hiding the drugs and controlling all their stress reactions and lie cues there are some other issues that are also occupying their thoughts.  “Am I leaking any of the cues I supposed to hide?”  “Is my performance in answering “the questions” succeeding based on the reactions I see from the officer who stopped me?”  All I can say to the producers of this video is “thanks.”  You will so thoroughly screw up the people who are going to buy your video with some much misinformation you’re going to make it easier for observant officers to pick out their behaviors.  Now these people don’t have just one or two things to worry about during their stop, they now have about 10.  These drivers aren’t rocket scientists and definitely not astute enough actors to master such a skilled performance on the side of the road.

Pre-conception: An Interrogation Assassin.

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

There can be many ways and reasons an interrogation can fail. Among the many possible scenarios, we can fail to get a confession, we may get a false confession, or the subject just may plain flat refuse to talk or cooperate in any form.  One of the most deadly enemies of a successful interview or interrogation is the ‘pre-conception assassin.’  Let’s look at three tactics the ‘pre- conception assassin’ can use to kill your interview or interrogation.


One tactic employed by the pre-conception assassin is to convince the interviewer that the subject will be totally credible and has absolutely no intention of being misleading or deceptive.  This is an easy kill.  The assassin gets the interviewer to just simply ignore any and all signs of possible stress response to any questions and ultimately any lie signs.  If you can’t see the signs then any negative perceptions about the person’s honesty just simply go away.  Just cover your brain with the magic sheet and the scary deception monster goes away because if you can’t see it, it just doesn’t exist.


The second tactic our assassin employs is to turn the interviewer into a raving paranoid.  This requires the interviewer to assume the mind set that everyone is guilty of something, he just hasn’t figured out yet of what crime. Now the interviewer has to identify symptoms of evasion and deception that don’t exist but every movement and every answer has some hidden nefarious meaning. The interviewer is convinced the subject has got to be lying he just has to get the subject to believe the same thing and confess.


Finally, our pre-conception assassin has to  the interviewer’s control question formulation and presentation.  The interviewer should never ask a question whose answer may contradict his preconceived beliefs.  Ignorance will truly be bliss.  Only ask those questions that further support your conclusions and don’t give up until you get the answer you want.  Truth is not really your objective in either case – just get a confession or exonerate the subject at any and all costs. These are the interviewers who proclaim they have a 100% percent confession rate or a 100% cleared case rate.


Look at your mind set before you enter the interview room.  Are you an accomplice to the ‘pre-conception assassin?’ Is your ultimate objective for any interview and interrogation finding the truth no matter how disturbing, disappointing, or unpopular that may be?  When we stop searching for the truth, we’ve stopped serving justice.