Article Categories

how to spot a liar

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.

Which Interview Technique Works Best?

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

One question I’m frequently asked is which interview and interrogation technique works the best. The best answer I can give is whichever technique you used when the subject confessed. Although that answer may sound vague the reality is that the response is very accurate. There is no uniform method or technique that will be successful in every interview situation. As we discussed in the June issue, the successful interviewer is the one who learns how to adapt to the unique personality and behavior characteristics of the subject that happen to be interviewing.

To be a little more specific, we can refer to several scientific studies that have observed, documented and analyzed several hundred investigative interviews. The findings of these observational studies are quite interesting in that they report that there are interview and interrogation tactics that appear to regularly be most successful. In fact four approaches seem to consistently productive:

1. Appealing to the subject’s conscience.
2. Identifying contradictions in the subject’s story.
3. Use of praise or flattery.
4. Offering moral justification and / or psychological excuses.

It is very interesting to note that these four approaches appear to coincide very well with the four dominant personality type interviews that we use in Practical Kinesic Interview & Interrogation®.

The next time you are preparing for an interview or interrogation, mentally create four separate dialogues you can have with your subject using each of these four approaches. Once in the interview room, make an assessment of the most likely personality type of the subject you are interviewing and use one of the four dialogues most appropriate. You should find you’ll get positive results must faster and have a higher admission and even confession rate.