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Too Many Choices – Creating Frustration in Interrogation

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

If given the time, we could probably come up with a number of reasons a suspect won’t confess, a hostile witness won’t cooperate or why the victim won’t disclose.  If we then reviewed our “list” objectively we might find that we have placed a large portion of the blame on our subject and were partially if not fully blind to any problems we may have created.  It’s time to give ourselves and our subject a break.  The impasse may in fact have been created because of there being too many choices to be made by us and our subject.

All too often when entering an interview room, we like to go in “armed to the teeth” with information and facts.  Being fully loaded with evidence is certainly not a bad thing but how we choose to present that information can be a handicap for the interviewer as well as the subject.  With some many choices to make about what topics to address, how to address them, what order and more, we get caught up in the “planning” and can bungle the “presentation.” Because we have too many choices to make we may see a successful interview as a long and difficult campaign with no assurance of success and even a higher probability of early failure.  To overcome this problem, try dealing with and presenting only one issue at a time and strive to win small battles and not the whole “war” with one big “atomic” question that tries to incorporate multiple issues.  You’ll find you’ll be able to focus more on your subject, miss fewer of the important responses and increase your chances of overall success.

Far too many choices presented to the victim, witness or suspect also has a higher probability of negative outcome.  Contrary to common belief, it is known in the sales profession too many choices presented to the customer kills more sales than they make and the same behavior response applies to the interview room.  Asking for agreement or concession from your subject on several issues at once makes the ultimate decision by the subject much more difficult.  When we increase the difficulty of the decision making cycle for our subject, the longer it will take for the person to make their decision to comply, cooperate or confess. The longer the decision-making cycle is extended for our subject, the greater the chance that the results of the decision process will be negative and thus harder for us to reverse and overcome.

Review your case before you conduct your interview. Break down the case interview objectives into smaller more manageable tasks and move toward your goals of cooperation, compliance and admission by winning small victories by reducing the choices to be made at any one time.  You’ll improve your chances of a successful interview.

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.