We all know the punch line of a joke about politicians, “How do you know when a politician is lying? Every time their lips are moving.” This cliché is probably more true than anyone wants to admit, but there are events transpiring in America that make the ability to understand when we are being lied to more important than it ever has been.
A great example of that is during this last election cycle: the media refused to do the job it was commissioned to do and take our politicians to task for their actions or lack of actions. So how do you know when your candidate it telling the truth? Let me tell you how you can know for yourself if you are being lied to.
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a course put on by The Reid Institute called “Interviewing and Interrogation Training”. This was one of the best courses I think I have ever taken, the instructor was excellent and able to keep my attention for eight hours a day for four days while we sat through lectures and videos of interviews/interrogations of a variety of footage. Some of the footage is of people suspected of some crime ranging from drug prescription fraud to child molestation and even national investigations of politicians.
This course was developed to aid law enforcement agencies as they draw conclusions on the suspect’s, victim’s, or witnesses’ truthfulness or deceptive behaviors and “to specifically identify those behavioral characteristics that can be consciously observed and evaluated for possible indications of truth or deception, thereby increasing the accuracy of assessments. “ (Reid Institute, Interviewing and Interrogating, pg 5)
Let me insert a caveat here: The Reid Institute is very quick to point out that there are reasons that can cause the appearance of a deceptive behavior that is actually quite innocent and then they articulate that this process does not determine guilt, but confirms the suspicion that further questioning is needed.
While at the course we watched a lengthy section of the deposition and trial of President Bill Clinton over the charges associated with Monica Lewinski. It was interesting to see the reaction of some in the class. They were upset at the notion that President Clinton would have lied to America, however by day two there was no longer the scowls and uncomfortable tension as we watched, but simply disbelief as we watched more of what is readily available on YouTube.
I decided to dig a little further, took one of my lunch breaks, and revisited some of the current media footage available about Benghazi. It was interesting to see President Obama’s responses to direct questions concerning his knowledge about this tragedy. I have put both videos below for you to watch as well.
As a part of the course we went through a pretty detailed behavioral analysis that included verbal, non-verbal, speech, attitude and body language indicators to pay attention to while evaluating the person who is possibly being deceptive.
Those indicators will be seen throughout the process of interviewing a person. One of the first signs of a person who is possibly being deceptive are found in their attitude. Are they guarded, unhelpful, unconcerned, or insincere? Those are signs of possible deception, because typically an innocent person is open, helpful, concerned, and sincere.
Another indicator of possible deception is a person’s responses to questions. Do they have an unnatural pause or hesitation or deny their guilt by being very specific such as “I did not steal 551 dollars from that convenience store on Saturday night”; or give themselves an out such as “To the best of my knowledge”?
I personally found the verbal signs of guilt really interesting. In nearly every video we watched when the person used proper pronouns and avoided the use of contractions, by the end of the interview they were admitting their own guilt. An example of this would be asking someone if they robbed the bank and their response, if guilty, was usually something like, “No I did not steal” instead of a more instinctual response of innocent like “I didn’t do it!” Another one that caught my attention was typically innocent people used singular pronouns versus those who eventually admitted guilt and who used plural pronouns.
Using non-verbal behavior to determine the possibility of guilt was pretty fascinating as well. For example some of the non-verbal indicators are: barriers between them and the interviewer such as a purse, their hands, or a book. They will also have other signs such as protective gestures like covering their eyes or mouth or the lack of gestures with their hands and lack of eye contact. One of the most telling signs in the videos we watched were the combination of factors in order to give the person being questioned time to recover such as looking away, long pauses, reframing the questions, or long winded explanations that never answer the question that only required a yes or no answer.
So let’s have some fun! I have attached three videos for you to watch and I would like to encourage you to watch them. Don’t just respond guilty or not guilty, liar or they told the truth, but share with us the signs and details that you saw that led you to your conclusion.
Image: American inventor Leonarde Keeler (1903-1949) testing his lie-detector on Dr. Kohler; source: Bibliothèque nationale de France; author:Agence de presse Meurisse; public domain/copyright expired