contr. : B.B. Donahue
Interpreting Answers

  Lieutenant Donahue shines his light on
the liar's use of verbal phrases in:


by: Bertram Donahue

2 Pages - Page 1

"During an interview a subject freely chooses which words or phrases to use when responding to the investigator's question. This choice is not random or haphazard; it is carefully selected to offer either the most accurate response possible or to avoid the anxiety telling less than the truth would cause."

Which answer killed Bob?
Consider the following homicide example where Bob was found stabbed to death at 7:00:
Q: "When did you last see Bob?"
A1: "Right around 4:00 Tuesday afternoon."
A2: "I believe it was sometime on Tuesday."
A3: "As far as I remember it was earlier this week."
A4: "It's been quite awhile."
A5: "I really can't say."

From these responses alone, it is not possible to say which ones suggest a lie. Some variables that influence this assessment include how long ago the suspect did see Bob, the suspect's frequency of seeing Bob and the likelihood that the suspect would specifically remember the last time he saw Bob. What can be stated with confidence is that each response, starting with A1 through A5, accepts less and less personable responsibility.
Context is important
The anxiety a suspect avoids by selecting certain phrases in his response may be the result of uncertainty, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem or the fear of having a lie detected. To help identify possible lies, the context in which a statement is made is a key consideration.
As an example, consider the suspect who is asked: "At any time did you touch Annie's bare vagina?" and his response is, "I don't believe that has ever happened" or, "I would have to say that I did not." Both responses reflect a lack of certainty concerning the alleged behavior. If the pervert was a grade school teacher he has no legitimate reason to be uncertain about contact with her vaginal area, and deception should be suspected! On the other hand, if the suspect was a physician who gave Annie a sport's physical the uncertainty may be understandable.


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