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True Indicators of Verbal Deception

Four-Step Process

Based on personal interactions from past and present, every person has created his own personal communication behaviors. The first phase revolves around the content. This is basically one question, “What message do I want to send?” A guilty person asks this question each time he chooses to lie but works harder for the answer.

After developing the content, the suspect’s past experience takes over. The suspect goes through a coding process by asking himself, “How can I code my message to influence the officer to my way of thinking?” Once the message is coded and prepared, the suspect is ready to send it convincingly. A liar asks two questions, “How can I send my message in the most believable way?” and “How can I incorporate actions from the past that have worked in similar situations?”

The suspect’s most important phase is how he interprets or decodes his sent message. With anticipation, the liar asks one simple question, “Did the officer believe me?” How the suspect interprets the listener’s reaction will create the next message.

Now, how do you manipulate this? The most comprehensive studies conclude that liars have a higher pitch, more negative statements, shorter answers, and higher response latency.

First, liars are so worried about getting their point across they tend to raise their pitch during the most important part of their message. It’s the emotion tied to the lie that causes the increase in pitch. Second, liars are more negative about the case, the officer, and their personal lives. The glass is half empty, and their language expresses these thoughts.

Third, truthful subjects have more complete answers and sometimes offer more information than needed. Liars have shorter answers thinking the less information, the less to scrutinize. They tend to tell the truth to a point, but form a text bridge by bypassing damaging information and concluding with information that can be investigated with out worry.

Fourth, a little more complicated but equally important is response latency. A truth teller’s flow of information has smooth transactions from one thought to the next and averages only a half-second between thoughts. Conversely a liar’s response tends to have a second and a half pause before an answer or when transitioning to the next subject.

A liar’s mind is in overdrive because he has to subconsciously think about the four-step process. His number one priority is how he can express his thought in the most convincing manner. It takes time to think about the process, where a truth teller doesn’t care how his message is presented.

Countering Verbal Deception

Take each concept in mind when searching for truth, especially the amount of information received. Everything else can be detected, stored, and investigated. Once the liar displays the above characteristics, search for truth by closely scrutinizing the information and asking detailed questions.

For example, once an omission in facts is detected and after the liar has completed his thought, go back to your mental note and ask for more details. We want to attack the text bridge by asking questions that produce facts. As an investigator, I love to hear the statement, “The next thing I knew…” Often times, rather than searching for it, the suspect is offering you a time lapse to examine.

The idea of detecting truth is to force the liar into falsification. We will not detect every lie, so forcing the liar to falsify information rather than concealing it leaves the investigator greater room for verification. We must send the liar a pre-conscious message that the information can and will be tested, challenged, and proven wrong with facts. As you know, the more information, the more there is to verify. And aside from a confession, verifying information is the best thing.

J.L. Sumpter, MS, is a detective / corporal with the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office and a freelance writer on police interviews and conversation management. He is a national public speaker and can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Aug 2008

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