I hope that readers will find this information interesting. Due to the length and the amount of time involved, behavioral analysis will be covered in a later post.
People Say Exactly What They Mean
Statement Analysis is a very useful interviewing technique for detecting deception on the part of either the suspect or the victim. It's the process of examining a person's words to see exactly what they're saying.
It's based on the principle that people do not lie. Most people want to tell the truth. Even liars will tell a partial truth. It's easier to tell a partial truth than to completely fabricate a statement. They just won't tell the whole truth.
Statement analysis is based on several principles. The primary one is that most people want to tell the truth, even when
they are lying. It's been theorized that the psychological ID part of
our personality, the subconscious primitive part, tends to be truthful at all times. If we're being deceptive, a conflict occurs with our ID and it creates stress.
"Vrij and Winkel (1993) stated that the deception framework includes both emotional and cognitive components." When a person lies, this causes a conflict within ourselves and creates stress (emotional). That stress then triggers a sympathetic nervous system to act, as part of the "Fight or Flight" syndrome.
The sympathetic nervous system activates responses within our bodies that we can't control, such as pupil dilation, blood pressure, respiratory rates, and perspiration.
The sympathetic response will trigger the cognitive part of the deceptive process. The person is then aware of their nervousness "and will thereby attempt to limit and control any behavioral cues they perceive as being created by the stressor (Vrij, 1994)." This becomes apparent through verbal statements and unconscious body language."
Statement analysis requires that the investigator obtain the suspect's own words, unaltered and uninfluenced by the investigator. Suspects can either write their statements or dictate them to someone else (Hess 1997).
A technique called SCAN is "based on the assumption that everyone wants to tell the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth."
"Truthful people will speak or write differently than people who are being deceptive." SCAN is a way to obtain information and detect deception, directly from the words that people use." Most people want to tell you everything.
According to LSISA, SCAN looks at every statement as truthful. "People don't lie. They want to tell us everything, but they don't always say everything. And what they don't say can reveal the whole truth - the truth that the person wanted to conceal."
In analyzing written and verbal statements, "The investigator focuses on the words, lack of words used, body language and / or handwriting in the response from a witness or subject to determine truthfulness instead of focusing on the facts that are stated."
Statement analysis is a two step process. First, the investigators have to determine what is the norm. Then they look for any deviation from that norm. Truthful statements differ from fabricated ones.
Parts of Speech
According to FBI special agent, Susan H. Adams, M.A., in her article: Statement Analysis. What Do Suspects Words Really Reveal?, parts of speech are the foundation of statement analysis.
Investigators look at the different parts of speech: Nouns, pronouns, and verbs. When people are being deceptive, it shows up in their use of the parts of speech. If their statement differs from the norm expected, red flags go up.
For example, Susan Smith had originally claimed that her two boys had been abducted. During the investigation, Susan stated,
"My children wanted me. They needed me. And now I can't help them." Notice how she used the past tense then switched back to the present tense. That's because she knew they were already dead.
Scott Peterson is another classic example of deceptive people using the wrong verb tense when making a statement. He made the mistake of referring to his wife in the past tense, while she was supposedly only missing at the time.
- Emotions - truthful people tend to be very emotional when giving a statement. They're not rehearsed and they tend to use words like: stolen, theft, fraud. Deceptive persons will be very controlled. They tend to use words like: missing, gone, etc.
An attorney once told me that you can always tell when a person is being truthful because they will show righteous indignation when falsely accused of something. Righteous indignation is driven by emotion.
When we are wrongly accused of something, our emotions soar. We become highly indignant. We intend to prove our innocence. A truthful person who becomes a suspect in a criminal investigation is very quick to demand a lie detector test.
- Stuttering or repeating words.
- Answering a question with a question - stalling for time.
- Hesitation marks - stalling for time. Um, UGH, Let's see.
Most people tend to use the first person, past tense when describing events in the past. The truthful person's use of pronouns will be correct. The deceptive person will deviate from the norm.
Most people use the word, "I". "I did this". "I did that". A deceptive person will often drop the word "I" from his statement at important moments, such as discussing what occurred at the time of the crime.
Example: I woke up at 6:30. I took a shower. I got dressed. Drove to the store. I got to work about 8:00.
Notice how the word "I" is dropped suddenly, then picked back up. Most deceptive people will try to distance themselves from the event, so they drop the pronoun "I".
The same thing goes for possessive pronouns. A guilty person will try to distance himself from the event by dropping the possessive pronoun. "My gun" suddenly becomes "The gun".
The Pronoun "We"
This is another important pronoun to scrutinize when analyzing statements. The norm is for people to use the first person singular pronoun when referring to themselves. When referring to two people, the norm is to use the word "we". It denotes relationship and togetherness.
Either the overuse, or the omision, of the word "we", should raise red flags (first person, pleural). For example, if a person accuses someone of abducting and raping her, the use of the word "we" would be suspicious.
Sexual assault investigators have noted, through their experience, that true rape victims tend to use the word "He" and "I", not "we". If the accuser uses the term "we" and denies knowing the accused, then the statement is considered to be false.
Noun Analysis - Again just look for any changes from the norm because "a change of language reflects a change in reality" [Adams]. If a husband, while making a statement, keeps referring to "My wife" then suddenly switches to "Susan", at a crucial moment of the event, a red flag is raised.
Social introductions are another clue. Most of us indicate a close relationship by naming the person. "My husband Tom" rather than just "He". The statement reflects a closeness with the use of the word "we". To omit that word would indicate distance. If a husband or wife is found murdered, and the spouse omits using the word "we", suspicions are raised.
Lack of Conviction
When analyzing a statement, a person's lack of conviction could be suspicious. If the person keeps stating, "I don't remember" or "I don't recall", red flags are raised. The use of qualifiers such as "I think" or "I believe" or "To the best of my recollection" also raises suspicion. " ... the person giving the statement is avoiding commitment, and warning bells should ring in the investigator's ears." [Adams]
When reviewing a statement, it's important to look at the overall balance of the statement. A truthful statement is divided into thirds:
- What happened before the incident
- What happened at the time of the event
- What happened after the event
"The more balanced the three parts of the statement, the greater the probability
that the statement is true. If any part of a statement is incomplete or missing altogether, then the
statement is probably false." [Adams] The statement is divided up into the number of written lines.
For example, if there are 60 lines total, there should be 20 lines devoted to each third when describing the event. If you have a statement which is out of balance, such as too much before the event and very little afterwards, this indicates deception.
Changes in verb tense: This is another big clue. Most of us speak in the first person past tense when relating a past event. A deceptive person will often use the wrong verb tense when describing an event that occurred in the past, switching instead to the present tense. Most verb changes indicate that the statement is being fabricated.
Time - Time is an important element in the subject's statement.
It can give us clues as to how much information the subject has
provided. Truthful people will provide a logical statement that follows a
chronological time frame. Deceptive people often won't. Gaps in a
statement indicate deception. When a person says, "I don't remember,"
they are often concealing a critical detail. Any missing time elements
should raise red flags.
Extraneous Information - Deceptive statements will often have a great deal of extraneous information in them that have nothing to do with the event in question. The deceptive subject may put in detail after detail, leading up to the occurrence of the event, then suddenly gloss over the event itself, telling very little about it. Most deceptive statements (80-90%) show the main event pushed to the very end, then abruptly stop.
According to the article, Statement Analysis, by Ralph Thomas of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) " Extraneous information and information presented out of order in relationship to time" should raise red flags.
"The more disorganized an account, the more the account is out of order chronologically, and the more extraneous information is found in an account, the more the account becomes suspect."
The Number Three
Studies have shown that the number three is the liars number. When deceptive people have to come up with a number, they'll usually pick the number three. I was kidnapped by three men. I fired three shots. I was raped by three men.
The following example is quoted from author Wesley Clark's article: An Application of Statement Analysis ( L.I.E.S.):
about 8:45 am brought the baby to nannys and then went
to work. got home about 5:00 pm she was a little
fussy brought her home and fed her then she went
to sleep she woke up Jane fed her and then she went
back to sleep woke up about 6:00 am fed her
She went back to sleep woke back up about 10:30 am
Fed her and the she went back to sleep she woke
up about 3:00 pm fed her some pee's and she thouh
up and stop breathing. I look at her and can tell
that she wasent breathing good I look at her a could
tell that her tounge was rolled up so I put my
finger in and pulled her tounge back out and the
she went limp so I ran to the nanny's house we jump
in the van and came to general hospital."
Notice how the father drops the pronoun "I" as well as omitting the possessive pronoun, "My". He doesn't call his child by name or even "My baby". It's, "The baby". There is no attachment there. Notice also how he switches from past tense to present tense and back again.
Marilyn Sheppard's Murder
The statements made by Richard Eberling, in the Marilyn Sheppard murder investigation, are a good example of the subconscious coming through. Quoted from the article, Marilyn Sheppard's Murder, by Mark McClish:
When Eberling was questioned about Marilyn's death, he responded, "
"It's a very distasteful subject and I would like to move on. It's not true. Never was and I had no intention. I've never killed anybody. That's not my nature."
Not only was Eberling trying to distance himself, but he essentially confessed to the killing with his statement, "I had no intention."
In 1997, NBC Dateline interviewed Eberling. He had this to say:
"I did not....You don't know that I killed anyone."
People say exactly what they mean!
I would like to quote a bit from one of my favorite resources,
Louis N. Eliopolis, Death Investigator's Handbook:
Truthful vs. Deceptive Behavior
- Nervous at first ; calms down as interview progresses
- Anger; specific
- Composed attitude; self assured
- Wants you to know he's innocent
- Cooperates with investigation
- appears without an attorney
- Willing to prove innocence
- Answers questions directly
- Willing to take lie detector test
- Open; Will volunteer info
- Unyielding & adamant in denials
- Willl sit forward in the chair & ask what you want to know
- Nervous at first; calms down as interview progresses
- Angry; nonspecific; won't calm down
- Overly anxious; seems confused
- Overly polite
- Will be quiet; afraid he will say something to get him in trouble
- Evasive in answers
- Non commital in response
- Complains; uncooperative
- Guarded about what they tell you
- Have to give a reason why they don't cooperate
- Defeated; slumps head forward
While statement analysis is only part of any investigation, it's an important part - providing clues to investigators as to what the subject is really thinking.
Don Rabon, of the North Carolina Justice Academy in Durham, NC, and author of Investigative Discourse Analysis states:
" These files are analogous to a crime scene. To the uninitiated, the crime scene might look just like an ordinary room. To the trained eye, however, there can be evidence for follow-up everywhere.
" ... discourse analysis in which a statement can be examined for more information than that available to the untrained eye. Armed with indications of the intent to falsify or conceal, the investigator can then focus the investigation on the heart of the deception."
Famous Case Statement Links: