Detecting Deception Versus Evaluating Truthfulness

A paradigm shift in our understanding of Deception and what exceptional criminal interviewers and researchers in psychotherapy are telling us:

     Traditional police interviewing techniques have focused on the detection of deception. Despite this effort to enhance the law enforcement officers ability to detect deception, research tells us that we are still inaccurate 50% of the time. It is virtually a coin toss. 50% the time we are correct. Half the time we are wrong. One of the reasons for the low accuracy rate is because we try to detect deception intellectually. The detection of deception is an emotional intelligence skill. Another reason is because hidden emotions and subconscious emotions exhibit many of the same verbal and nonverbal characteristics as deception. How do we improve our accuracy in detecting deception?

     There has been a paradigm shift in our understanding in the relationship between truthfulness and deception. Evaluating truthfulness is much easier and more accurate than focusing on detecting deception. Let me explain.

     The relationship between truthfulness and deception is the same as the relationship between hot and cold. If you remember your physical science, heat can be measured because it contains energy. Cold cannot be measured. Cold is the absence of heat, the absence of energy.

     It is the same relationship between truthfulness and deception. Truthfulness can be evaluated because the interviewee has experienced their story. They have seen, heard, smelled, touched and experienced their story. Deception is the absence of the truth. How can you provide detailed information if your story never occurred? It has a single layer of information that can be easily pierced with the proper questioning strategies.

     Truthfulness is multi-dimensional. Therefore, it is imperative to obtain extraneous details totally unrelated to the facts that we need as interviewers. For example, a suspect claim to have been at a gas station during the time of a reported offense at different location. How can we test the veracity of their alibi? We don’t have to depend on surveillance cameras.

     If they were actually at the gas station conducting personal business, they should be able to tell us details about how much fuel they purchased. Which pump they used. What did they see, and do as they pump their gas?  How many other customers and vehicles were at the gas station? What did the other customers look like? What did the other vehicles look like? If they went inside, what did the clerk look like? What was the clerk wearing? How did they pay? What did the clerk say?

     A truthful person can answer these questions because they saw, heard, smelled, touched and experienced their story. A deceptive person has not practiced their answers to these types of questions. Their inability to answer these questions will trigger a cognitive overload and an emotional reaction that results in blatantly obvious signs of deception. Such signs of deception ranging from a combination of nonverbal and verbal cues; i.e., hesitation, changes in body movement, changes in paralanguage, and the presence of micro-expressions. Specially trained interviewers already know that the suspects next answer is a lie before they tell it and continue to catch them with their own words.

     Exceptional criminal investigators and interviewers focus on obtaining the truth, not focusing on detecting deception. When the veracity of the interviewee’s statement becomes suspect, deliberate questioning strategies are initiated to verify truthfulness or reveal the deception.