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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.

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