While interviewing a crime suspect a police officer asks what happened. The suspected criminal describes the event while wringing the hands and looking away, up and to the left, not making direct eye contact.
However, when conducting interviews, investigators must ask themselves some important questions based on their observation of behavioral anomalies. Many law enforcement professionals understand and appreciate the importance of behavioral anomalies. These verbal and nonverbal s of cognitions and emotions provide additional clues to what an individual is thinking and feeling beyond the content of the words being spoken. In the context of investigative interviewing, these behavioral anomalies are called indicators.
These anomalies provide important cues and valuable insight into the personality, motivation, and intention of suspects. They can be s of hostile intent, suspicious behavior, veracity or lying, or topics and concerns that are important to the interviewee. These crucial bits of knowledge give investigators information superiority that can guide them through the process and help them complete interviews.
Individuals typically do not know that they are revealing these indicators.
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When reading people, one important distinction interviewers must make is the difference between validated and nonvalidated indicators. Those that are validated have scientific and field evidence documenting the association between the behavior and specific cognitions or emotions. These anomalies are laboratory tested under strict scientific conditions and vetted in the field by practitioners.
Nonvalidated indicators lack such data—either in scientific evidence, field operations, or both. Validation provides evidence for accuracy and consistency across various people in different contexts. Observation alone is not sufficient to label a certain behavior as a validated indicator because it has not withstood the scrutiny of rigorous testing in the laboratory and the field.
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Such testing would require establishing the conditions in which the indicator may or may not occur with multiple people. If the behavior ensued that would be evidence for its validation, and if it did not that would be verification for its nonvalidation.
There are validated and nonvalidated indicators imbedded in the example at the beginning of this article. Looking up to the left and twitching of the left eyebrow are not validated indicators of lying, even though many people believe they are. Therefore, this belief is more myth than reality. There are two of validated behavioral indicators that are relevant to interrogations.
One involves linguistic markers used in words when individuals provide statements or answer questions. This category is entirely verbal—based on principles of human memory and recall—and suggests that lies are different from truths in their demands upon memory, which is reflected by changes in grammar and language.
Research has indicated that lies comprise fewer words and more omissions of information; are less plausible, structured, and logical; are more discrepant and ambivalent; contain repeated details; lack contextual imbedding; and include more descriptions of what did not occur. The second category includes nonverbal behaviors NVB. Research has shown that various emotions and cognitions are communicated through facial expression, voice tone, gesture, body movement, and posture.
These anomalies often leak out nonverbally.
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Research has established that NVB indicators of lying include changes in the use of speech illustrators and symbolic gestures; subtle and microfacial manifestations of facial expressions; variations in blinking, pauses, and speech rates; and outward attempts to regulate emotions. It is possible to train individuals to identify verbal and nonverbal indicators of truthfulness and lying.
Statement and nonverbal analysis are not new to law enforcement as the techniques have been taught to investigators for years. Investigators who pay attention solely to one or the other may miss valuable information. The importance of considering verbal and nonverbal indicators concurrently was highlighted in a recent study—published in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin —that examined the combined contributions to the prediction of deception or truthfulness.
In another setting, individuals chose to lie or tell the truth about their beliefs concerning their political cause the opinion scenario. Regardless of the circumstances, there were stakes involved—if they were judged as lying, they would lose their participation fee and face one hour of white noise blasts while sitting on a cold, steel chair body a small, cramped room.
Videos of 20 individuals—10 each from the crime and opinion scenarios, half truth tellers and half liars—were analyzed. Analyses of their words and NVB together led to a 90 percent accuracy rate for classifying the individuals as lying or telling the truth. Compared to the average accuracy rate of 53 percent—no better than chance—by observers in studies, the findings indicated Manchester behavioral anomalies in verbal statements and NVB collectively provided a better source for determining veracity and deceit than basic observation. Investigators gained valuable information within 40 seconds of an interview with language year-old female suspect who allegedly assaulted a minor.
After officers Mirandized and obtained background information from the suspected perpetrator the discussion ensued—nonverbal behaviors flirting italicized. Her voice sounded vulnerable. Her jaw dropped and her mouth opened.
He was definitely hitting on…. It was one night when they spent the night over smiling and he was acting kind of strange that night and nothing happened. This implied that she knew what the investigator was talking about and could speak to her participation in the incident. It also could have indicated that Mary merely was tracking the conversation by acknowledging what was being said—known as back-channel communication.
Knowing her baseline would help the investigator make this distinction. When Mary said that she had no idea who Joe was but exhibited two microexpressions of disgust, this suggested that she knew exactly who Joe was—part of her brain was processing information that was incongruent with what she was saying.
Little-known facts about body language
This example demonstrates how verbal and nonverbal indicators of veracity and deceit occur simultaneously during communication. They are woven into the ongoing interaction and convey a wealth of information above and beyond the surface meaning of the words. It would benefit officers to identify these indicators when conducting interviews.
Their detection provides valuable assistance for guiding the investigator to meaningful content areas, helping build cases strategically and tactically, developing themes for use in interrogations, and arriving at ground truth quickly and accurately. The techniques for both statement and NVB analysis typically have been taught separately to law enforcement officers, providing them with increased skill in one particular technique but resulting in their missing much of the useful information that interviewees impart. Merging these techniques into a single application was a risk; however, it was possible that training in both could produce an information overload such that their practical application would have been unsuccessful.
Trainees learning both techniques independently often reported that they were overwhelmed by the amount of detail to which they had to attend.
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Fortunately, combining the techniques produced positive and the benefit of more real-life circumstances. Mid-to-upper-level career law enforcement officers concurrently enrolled in two courses—one was a traditional course on statement analysis trainees had to learn the basics of SA and the other was a combined SA and NVB analysis course.
Both courses covered validated indicators of truthfulness and lying culled from research and included lectures, discussions, video reviews, group projects, and individual practicum. After learning the basic principles of both statement and NVB analysis, trainees practiced on realistic source materials—actual statements and videos of suspects, witnesses, and informants telling truths and lies—to hone their skills.
The combined course also required trainees to learn how to recognize microfacial expressions of emotion.
By the end of the courses, trainees had improved their capacity to recognize verbal and nonverbal indicators of veracity and deceit and to incorporate those skills into their interview strategies. Pre- and post-test data on their ability to detect truths from a standardized set of videos were obtained in three sessions. At the beginning of the courses, attendees viewed a set of 10 videos prior to any training in SA or NVB analysis. Participants watched a different set of 10 videos at the end of the courses.
Reading people: behavioral anomalies and investigative interviewing
The videos were switched across both courses so that any findings were not specific to one set. These improvement rates were remarkable since the test videos lasted only 60 flirting 90 seconds. If the trainees had been able to question the interviewees in person, in a longer interview, with other typically available sources of language, witness statements, and physical evidence—the increase could have led to substantial differences in the efficacy by which investigators obtain ground truth and close cases.
Although trainees initially reported being overwhelmed by the details, they expressed greater comfort with the techniques by the end of Manchester sessions. They had to prioritize and determine which ones to act on, thereby producing the collateral benefit of improving their thinking about interrogation strategies and tactics. Behavioral anomalies—the verbal and nonverbal indicators of body and deceit—occur simultaneously in real-life.
Recognizing these indicators helps investigators detect lies and gain insight into the personality, motivation, and internal conflicts of interviewees and identify content areas necessitating further exploration and discovery.
Law enforcement officers must imbed these techniques within their strategic interview methodology. Behavioral anomalies are s investigators can use to determine truth; however, they should not be interpreted strictly given that research has not identified any behavior or behavior combinations that are unique to lying. Using behavioral anomalies in investigative interviewing will not solve every case. Interviews should be augmented by witness statements, forensics, and other evidence.
Investigators must prepare and plan for interviews, develop questions, and guide discussions as they recognize indicators. Those who have lie detection training must be cautious of post-training biases.
Additional information may be obtained from the authors at dmatsumoto humintell. For example, potential indicators that have never been tested scientifically should be considered unvalidated indicators. Potential indicators that have been tested scientifically but did not produce reliable findings would be considered invalidated indicators.
For the purposes of this article, both are called nonvalidated indicators. Kassin and C. Frank and E. Matsumoto, M.