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linguistic analysis

The Psychopath as an Interrogation Subject

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

One of if not the most challenging interviews or interrogations to conduct is that of the psychopath. Estimated by some experts to comprise about 7% of the world’s population, psychopaths make up approximately 55% of the U.S. prison population and are credited with committing roughly 80% of the violent crimes.  The interview or interrogation of the psychopaths confirms that a standard or routine approach that is used with all other subjects will be not successful.  As a personality disorder, psychopathy is marked by characteristics that include a lack of empathy for their victims, a total lack of personal insight, are chronic liars, have no remorse and demonstrate a total lack of impulse control.

 

The traditional efforts of an interrogator is to attempt to highlight or emphasize within the subject a certain level of awareness and acceptance of responsibility for their behaviors.  The psychopath has never and will never attain such level of awareness.  These subjects’ behaviors are dictated solely in response a narcissistic need for ego satisfaction.  Psychopaths are totally incapable of identifying with or appreciating the level of physical, emotional or mental pain that they cause their victims, the victim’s families as well as their own families. To attempt to get the psychopath to recognize the feelings, fear, trauma or pain they have brought upon their multiple victims is literally a waste of both the interviewer’s and subject’s time.

 

Once a psychopath is stimulated by the awareness of his or her selfish wants and needs, there is very little that will stop them from driving toward their own elf-serving goals. For anyone to believe that psychopaths will follow or adhere to any standards of appropriate social behavior or conduct is naive at best.  These subject’s perceive the world and itís occupants as existing only for the purpose of serving their own needs that are not to be denied.  It is for this very reason that psychopaths will rarely if ever respond to any punishment or threat of punishment, treatment or therapy for their inappropriate behavior.  This is also evident in the broad range of and often-large number of anti-social behaviors in which the psychopath will engage.

 

Psychopaths possess a very high threshold of cognitive and emotional stimulation that requires extremes in behaviors to maintain any form of satisfactory or stimulating life style. Coupled with a total lack of regard for socially acceptable conduct, psychopaths are well known for engaging high risk, self-destructive behaviors that are also very devastating to those around them.  Blatant sexually deviant behaviors and promiscuity, major acts of sado-masochistic behavior, abandonment of family, schoolwork and jobs are not uncommon as are multiple acts of fraud, deceit, and blatant abuse and manipulation of others.

 

The interview of the psychopath are best accomplished when the interviewer bares in mind that the subject will not be swayed by pleas or appeals based on sympathy, remorse, regret or social obligation as the psychopath is incapable of comprehending these concepts.  The interview should be based on the non-emotional format with the interviewer presenting the appearance that he or she already possesses all the known facts of the case.  The dialogue with the psychopath should center around facts and specific examples of evidence and information and that there are those who may in fact be impressed with the subject’s genuine individuality and independence and that others around them are in fact weak, lack the fortitude experience the fulfillment of life.  Threats of punishment are of no use. One interesting point however is that it would appear that the more these subjects are allowed to talk and even pontificate or sound off, the stronger and more resistant they become.  It will be imperative that the interviewer maintain focus and keep the subject on topic during the interview.  Admission or confessions occur because the subject delights in his or her behavior, the evidence of how everyone is shocked but yet awed by their audacity and ultimately that the feel in some way the admission or confession serves some other form of the ego fulfilling needs.

 

With even this admittedly very brief and limited description of psychopathy can anyone not recognize the behaviors of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and his long history of abuse of his enemies as well as his own countrymen as being those of a psychopath?  What are the odds that he has ever, will ever, or has even ever intended to comply with the demands of the reticent United Nations or any other civilized country?

The Defensive Demeanor Profile

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

 

All our individual behaviors are learned through the trial and error process from our life experiences.  If a behavior is successful during a stress period, it ís likely it will be used again.  If it fails, we adapt our behaviors to overcome the failed attempt to relive stress. This unique cluster of stress response is what we call the “Defensive Demeanor Profile” or DDP.

The term “Defensive Demeanor Profile” was coined by Dr. Martha Davis and this author during our in depth research project on micro behaviors conducted at John Jay College. (See the Martha’s article from December 2002).  We noticed that subjects we observed had some form of general stress behavior during their interrogation.  Buried in the middle of the of all the DDP information we would find the subject’s deception signals.

Most observers of deception fail to spot deception because they tend to be distracted by a subject’s DDP and define those behaviors as signs of deception when in fact that are nothing more than general stress behaviors.  We made the observation in our study that these DDP behaviors where most likely the product of years of stress response reactions and where more the “noise” or “static” of human behavior and were significantly responsible for distracting the observer from any reliable credibility cues.

The fact that all interviewed subjects including victims, witnesses, prospective employees, informants as well as suspects all generate their own DDP make the establishment of each person’s “constant” of behavior that much more critical when assessing the person’s credibility.  Without a firm grasp of each subject’s DDP as demonstrated under stress you are not going to able to recognize and correctly identify his or her signs of deception.

Accurate analysis of deception cannot be made without establishing s subject’s “constant” or baseline.  Take a few moments to make note mentally of your subject’s “constant” then look for changes from that pattern which will most likely be your subject’s DDP.  Buried in the middle of the DDP signals your subject generates you will find subject’s lies signs if there are any.  Remember that deception signals are a form of stress but not all stress signs indicate that the person is lying.