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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.

Is It Really Deception Or Am I Being Deceived?

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

If a person moves their eyes to the right when they normally move them to the left, they are lying.  He crossed his legs – it must be a lie.  She was lying  – she couldn’t look me in the eye. You can tell he was lying because he was fidgeting the whole time.  We are exposed to so many urban legends about what are reliable signs of deception from so many supposedly informed or professional sources. How do we know which signs are really reliable deception cues or mere assumptions based on legend and folklore?  One way to be sure is to be sure that what you are being taught meets the “Daubert” challenge.

In a US Supreme Court ruling regarding Daubert vs. Merrell Dow, the court established guidelines for what qualifies as scientific evidence.  The court’s interest was to establish the rule that expert opinion based on a scientific technique is inadmissible unless the technique is “generally accepted” as reliable in the relevant scientific community.  Far too many of the claims made in some interview and interrogation courses about what are reliable human verbal and nonverbal signs of deception will not meet this standard.

The Daubert ruling requires that four main conditions be met as to what will be accepted as expert opinion on scientific evidence. These parallel principles accepted in the scientific community as empirical evidence.  These four court-based requirements in brief state:

Whether the proffered knowledge can be or has been tested empirically, i.e., whether it is ìfalsifiable;î (Has it undergone accepted scientific disciplined testing.)

Whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication; (Has it been reviewed by the scientific community and  published in a scientific journal)

Whether, in the case of a particularly scientific technique, the method contains a high known or potential rate of error; (Does the technique used to test the theory have a high rate of accuracy.)

Whether the methodology is generally accepted. (Does the scientific community accept the testing method as reliable and objective)

What we should do as students of interview & interrogation and human behavior is to question claims made by instructors in our academies or classrooms that certain behaviors are signs of truth or deception.  As academy directors and instructors it is time we reviewed our course materials on the topic of interview & interrogation and make sure they meet the Daubert challenge. We should also question whether the claims made by quest or contract instructors meet these same stringent guidelines.  We can either deal with the issue now because in the future our course curriculum will be tested under Daubert’s strict guidelines.

For information about Daubert vs. Merrell Dow and its impact on what is considered expert testimony and scientific evidence, go to