Wednesday 14 March 2018

Interviews and Non-Verbal Communication

[...] Whoever keeps silent with his lips, talks with the tips of his fingers, reveals himself with all his pores.
Freud S., 1905

When we think about private research, among other things, we think about the search for truth, search for the perfect strategy, search for information, optimal results, satisfied customers, satisfied detectives. However, how can we get all this?

Surely with experience, study and determination. But what else? Something in which we should automatically think about research professionals is in the analysis of communication and non-verbal behavior, a tool that is not only powerful, but rather fundamental.

This analysis, about the whole situation and the people involved, leads the professional to go in the right direction as it helps him to formulate the right questions to oneself, to the client and to the investigated ones.
All this, because behind the information, there are possible lies or half-truths, behaviors done in bad faith or simply unimportant actions, which however if discovered can facilitate the investigation. Today we will see some indicators to take into account.

The lie:
"The deliberate attempt, successful or not, to hide, generate and / or otherwise manipulate factual and / or emotional information, by verbal and / or non-verbal means in order to create or maintain in another person (s) ( s) a belief that the communicator himself considers false "(Masip et al., 2004, page 148 cit in Gonzalez-Ordi, 2013).

Investigating lies is not an easy task. In addition different studies show how in a conversation of 10 minutes you can get to lie at least three times, especially if it is to give the best image of ourselves (Feldman, R., 2010). This in daily life, let us imagine if we know that they are analyzing us.

Aldert Vrij, a British psychologist, in 2001 and in 2007 provides a scheme of different reasons that may lie below a lie:
  • To offer a positive impression avoiding embarrassing situations or leading to social disapproval.
  • To maintain a good social interaction (the "social lies" that are the majority)
  • To obtain a personal benefit.
  • Avoid punishment.
  • To benefit another person (compliments on hair, clothes, etc).
  • Material or psychological reasons.

 Above all social lies, they basically serve to avoid daily conflicts and to benefit the flow of the
  • The same author (2008), tells us that a good liar:
  • It is well documented, to avoid inconsistencies.
  • It is original throughout the speech.
  • You have to think fast, because in front of a stimulus as a question, pauses or inarticulations like "emm ... ehh .." They usually identify with a long reaction time that is not typical of the person who tells the truth.
  • They have to have a good memory, so as not to use different arguments.
  • Be a good actor.
  • Do not experience feelings of fear or guilt because they are the emotions that are going to betray the individual especially through their nonverbal behavior, in fact one of the best strategies is self-deception (how much the individual believes more in his lie more will cheat ).

How to detect all this?
In different studies it has been shown that both a police expert and a university student, a normal citizen or a private detective have the same capacity, that is very close to chance (Aamondt & Custer, 2006). Variables such as detection security, age, experience or studies are not significant.
Therefore we see how the analysis of protocolarized nonverbal behavior is a fundamental tool when doing an investigation, because it helps to add evidence or inconsistencies from which one can infer logical deductions that will help to take the correct path.
There are different ways to improve the lie detection capacity:
  • Be suspicious, suspecting when there are indications of possible reasons to lie or hide part of the truth.
  • Ask cheating questions.
  • Be well informed and documented.
  • Ask to repeat part of the story, also on different days.
  • Listen while observing the interlocutor very carefully, since the emotions expressed through nonverbal behavior play a very important role during a story.
  • Compare behavior in different neutral contexts and with verbal content.

There are some non-verbal indicators that we can and should take into consideration when analyzing an individual and his discourse. These are the result of a greater effort of the celebro in producing something not true. Always keeping in mind the basic pattern of behavior (which serves as a comparison), these indicators can be:
  • A high tone of voice.
  • Perform fewer movements.
  • Make fewer illustrative gestures with less detail.
  • Make more breaks during the story.
  • Increased neurovegetative activity.
  • Lack of congruence between facial patterns and emotional expression.
  • To these it adds some verbal indicators that are:
  • Less convincing answers.
  • Speeches with few details.
  • More indirect and / or shorter answers.
  • Less self-referrals are made (I think, I think that), which is an unconscious technique of not assuming responsibility.
  • Speeches chronologically too correct (when we say the truth we usually tend to correct ourselves because we remember things throughout the speech).
  • There are more negative statements and less temporal, spatial and perception references.

Misip J., et al, Definition of deception, Vol. 20, Num 1 (2004) in Annals of Psychology Vrij, A. (2008). Detecting lies and deceit (2ndEd.). New York: Wiley.

Federica Cossu 

For more information about Federica Cossu, expert criminologist and sociologist, you can access her information and professional contact:


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