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deception

Using Memory Context

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

I was doing shopping recently at a department store in my town. I encountered a familiar face in the store. Being polite I smiled said “Hello” and “How’s it going?” I received a polite response but a rather puzzled look from the person. My wife asked how I knew this person to which I replied that I knew them but couldn’t remember why. After about three hours of searching my brain I remembered. I was responsible for helping to convict them almost 25 years ago for fraud and two counts of perjury. My problem was I couldn’t remember the person outside the context or the frame of reference in which I had encountered the person.

We all tend to remember people, things or events in terms of the context in which we were exposed to the stimulus which we have stored in our memory. When you find yourself interviewing your subject who appears to be genuinely having trouble remembering, try using that person’s frame of reference in which they may have exposed to the details.

Some examples would include having a waitress try to recall a customer’s order, a big tipper, noisy patrons or busing a very dirty table. A mechanic might remember body damage, engine repair, or a unique paint job. A patrol office remembers certain traffic stops based on location, violation, time of day, unusual passenger. Teachers will remember kids based on the class they were teaching, a student who excelled in a particular area or even by their parents or a sibling they had as student. Some people remember better when you mention smells, sounds, or specific colors.

All of us can have our memories jogged when we try to remember the emotional state in which we found ourselves before, during or after the encounter. Just listen to your friends telling about funny, exciting, thrilling or even traumatic experiences and you’ll hear frame of reference at work.

Human memory is quite complex in it’s function but once we understand the basics of how memories are acquired, stored and retrieve we can greatly improve the content quality of information we can gain from our exploratory, narrative interviews.

Avoiding Critical Issue Overload

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

You finally have your subject in the interview room. You’ve built a substantial case against your subject and you’re sure there’s no way he or she can deny the overwhelming information you compiled against them. When the time is right you “unload” on the subject. You give them “both barrels” and then you stand back waiting for your subject to crumble under the sheer wait of the proof of your case. After a short pause your subject simply tells you you’re wrong and says “No.” So what happened? You had a great interrogation dialogue all set up. Simple. It was a case of “critical issue overload.” You pushed too much information on your subject all at once and forced your subject to reject the entire argument of proof thereby disabling your interview.

First, your subject was heavily under stress to begin with. Now you have forced your subject into making a single critical decision with what appears to them to be of totally overwhelming proportions. To him or her it is the most expedient way to escape from the pressure that the reality they’ve just been forced to confront.

Second, you set yourself up to have your interview argument to be shut down with a single simple answer – No. Your subject saw that you gave them a simple “out” and they took it leaving your argument hanging and unresolved.

Avoid “critical issue overload” techniques in the interview room. Spread out your case information by addressing smaller more manageable arguments. This keeps your subject from feeling mentally and emotionally overwhelmed with the reality of the facts they may be facing. String out your case arguments addressing only one issue at a time. Now your subject is forced to deal with each issue one at a time creating a training effect. Even though they have just dealt with one issue, there’s the next coming right behind the first. You are also more likely to get a toehold on your subject’s resistance by getting acceptance on a few issues. Once you win one or two points, it much easier to argue subsequent proof and avoid one mass rejection of your entire case.