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You May Not Be A Successful Interviewer If …

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

You are unacquainted with the case details. Efforts at “winging it” in the interview room or going on a “fishing expedition” very rarely produces positive results.  You should always approach every interview with the “construction of proof” as your objective.  That’s for all interviews – victims, witnesses, suspects, applicants, informants, petitioners, etc.

You approach your subject with an assumption of guilt. No one can be truly objective when they enter the interview room but by assuming guilt, we typically ignore asking the questions or hearing  answers that might challenge and even threaten our pre- conceptions.

You use an “accusatory style” interview. An accusatory style tends to “drive” the interview in only one direction and rarely uncovers new or additional information. It also seldom generates cooperation from victims or witnesses and compliance from subjects.  An accusatory approach is also notorious for generating contaminated statements.

You frequently interrupt your subject. Any interview as well as an interrogation is far from being successful without active, participatory listening by the interviewer. Frequent interruption cuts off the flow of conversation and ultimately information.

You are repetitive in your questioning or labor over the same line of questioning. Persistent questioning from a single narrow perspective tends to frustrate even the cooperative subject – it tends to lock their reasoning and thinking process into one line of thought.  Varying your approach, method of framing a question, and using a more narrative-based approach results in content rich statements and cooperative subjects.

Note: Once the interview starts out bad, it rarely ever improves.

Voice Quality Changes – Truth or Deception
(A Deception Research Update)

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

Among the multiple channels of communication that a person can use, the “voice channel” possesses three sub-channels: verbal content, thought line and voice quality. Voice quality is defined as the rate of speech, voice pitch and volume. The question for the interviewer is “Are any changes in voice quality characteristics broadcast by the subject reliable cues of deception?”

To answer this question, research studies have been testing the significance of voice changes exhibited by subjects in “live” interviews and interrogations. In the past, deception studies have used “staged” or “controlled” settings that allow for consistent interview conditions but don’t reflect real life reactions seen by interviewers. An extensive research study has been conducted using live interrogations in which a subject’s specific statements have been confirmed as truthful or deceptive. Voice quality changes where among the behavioral changes analyzed by the observers for their ability to isolate truthful from deceptive statements.

Results from this study have determined that when a subject is not experiencing elevated levels of stress and was at the same time being truthful, the subject did not show any significant voice quality changes. Obviously there is not much of a surprise in the results of this part of the study but we do have a critical baseline measurement. When the subject was under stress the voice quality cues did in fact show significant increase in the pitch of the voice, volume and the words per minute or at least in some of variation or combination of the characteristics. Interestingly, the subject was not being deceptive at the same time the voice quality changes occurred.

When false or deceptive statements where analyzed for the presence of voice quality changes, some interesting results were revealed. It was learned that as expected, subjects under significant stress and being deceptive did show changes in voice quality. However, it was also learned that deceptive subjects who are under stress might not show any significant changes in voice quality.

The conclusion about voice quality changes is that such changes can occur when subjects are being both truthful and deceptive and are therefore not reliable signs of deception. In addition, voice quality changes can be associated with an increase in stress in a subject but the lack of voice quality changes do not mean that your subject is not experiencing elevated levels of stress. He or she may in fact be able to exhibit their stress through other verbal or nonverbal channels.