Online Linguistic Polygraph Training in Forensic Statement Analysis
Detecting Deception with "TheirWords"
-C. Auguste Dupin
Simply put, Statement Analysis is a kind of linguistic polygraph.
Let's take a look at the following example in which a father writes about the events surrounding the death of his infant son. "Around 5:00am / 5:30am I, John A. Woods Jr., was in the process of giving my son, John A. Woods III, his scheduled feeding. During this feeding he bucked & fell approx. 2ft. to the floor, hitting his head on the floor. His body landed head first; I attempted to catch him but was unsuccessful. When I picked him up he cried for about 90 sec. then started to gag. His eyes were glazed. I immediately called 911."
If you were the investigator on this case, what would you do? Would you (a) feel sorry for the young dad and have pity for his loss, or (b) interrogate him for murdering his eight-week-old son? To an ordinary citizen, this looks like the description of a tragedy. To an investigator like Detective Ken Driscoll of the Baltimore Police Department, it looks like an inadvertent confession of murder. John A. Woods, Jr. did kill his infant son, and the words he used in this statement allowed investigators the inside knowledge they needed to interrogate him and gain his confession.
Detective Driscoll originally studied statement analysis under Avinoam Sapir of the Israeli Police Department, a man considered a pioneer in this field. After 10 years of study Det. Driscoll has taken his training a step further, developing an online training course, and a computer program to aid analysts in marking-up and analyzing statements.
Det. Driscoll notes, "As police officers and investigators, we frequently question people who may be being dishonest or who may have an interest in hiding information." For every pile of lies, an investigator needs a way of sifting out the truth, new techniques and methods to help distinguish facts from fiction. "TheirWords: Linguistic Polygraph Training" can help investigators do just that.
Various systems of deception detection have been devised throughout history. Some depend on analyzing the subject's body language; one consists of watching the movements of the subject's eyes. Nevertheless, gestures vary with nationality and culture and can be misleading to someone unfamiliar with the rules and code of the subject's society. Here in the United States, with a population of many cultures, body language and eye movement can be confusing sometimes even throwing the investigator off track. By contrast, Linguistic Polygraph Training is simple, easy to understand, and comes with lifetime technical support from its instructors.
Let's take a look at how easy this technique can be. In the John A. Woods statement, Mr. Woods said, "Around 5:00am / 5:30am I, John A. Woods Jr. was in the process of giving my son, John A. Woods III, his scheduled feeding. During this feeding he bucked & fell approx. 2ft. to the floor hitting his head on the floor. "Notice how the writer is not taking any personal responsibility for this incident. Stating that "he bucked" and "[he] fell," Mr. Woods implies that it is the baby's own fault that he fell to the floor. Maybe this would be more believable if the baby were eight years old, but that's hardly the case here.
Nevertheless, the most telltale statement of all is the next one. Mr. Woods continues by saying, "His body landed head first." When writing, we naturally try to say things in the shortest and easiest way possible. Here we have to ask ourselves why Mr. Woods didn't simply phrase this statement in the shorter, more natural: "He landed head first." Why, at this point, would Mr. Woods describe his supposedly still-living baby as a "body"? The best answer? The baby was dead, or believed to be dead, before he hit the floor...and Mr. Woods knew it.
When re-interviewed, the writer of this statement broke down and cried, telling investigators that his son's crying for more than an hour got to him. He lost control and yanked his son out of his crib by his leg, not realizing that in jerking him so forcefully he had just broken his son's leg, which naturally caused the baby cry louder and harder. At this point, John A. Woods Jr. became enraged and began shaking his son until his son stopped crying...and breathing. Realizing he just killed his son, he staged the fall by sitting on the edge of his couch and dropping his son's body head first to the floor. This guy nearly got away with murder, and might have escaped prosecution altogether if not for Statement Analysis.
Statement Analysis depends entirely upon analyzing written or verbal statements. The basic premise is that the structure and content of a subject's statement will reveal when there is an attempt at deception. We all write in different ways, with different characteristic choices of words, and what we use words for is to define our reality. When we lie, we're trying to juggle two things in our minds at the same time: the real events and the invented or disguised version of them. The language we use reflects that tension -- and when it does, the language we use does not follow our normal patterns.
For instance, word choices can reveal whether a statement comes from the memory or from the imagination. When the statement begins to address the central incident, some subjects change to the present tense. Most verb tense changes indicate that the statement is being made up as the writer/speaker is going along. This is a case of "constructing" the statement rather than "re- constructing" the incident. Gaps in the narrative also betray deception. The statement, "I don't remember" in an open statement often conceals a critical detail which the speaker would rather forget -- or at least avoid mentioning. Delay tactics also signal deception, and in fact, most deceptive stories (80%-90%) push the main issue the statement is supposed to address to the end of the statement and do not continue the narrative after that. They end abruptly or not at all, as if they didn't want to tell the big lie and waited as long as possible to do it. Another difference between truthful and deceptive statements is that most deceptive stories do not mention emotion, and those that do locate the emotions rationally, near the most threatening point. Finally, some subjects cleverly pose their own questions to avoid revealing information. In short, for every liar, there are innumerable ways to lie -- but every one of them involves a linguistic choice. Statement Analysis studies speech patterns, seeking revealing signs of deception by analyzing both the structure and contents of a statement.
Experienced investigators know that the most difficult way to obtain useful information is the simple question-and-answer method, which usually results in the subject answering "yes" or "no". The point in eliciting a statement is to ask open-ended questions. This is done to avoid prompting the subject and encourage a naturalness, with the subject providing new information in response to your questions.
Investigators should ask very few detailed questions to avoid introducing their own information (case facts/findings) into the subject's statements. By giving the subject, little information and coaching, the investigator seeks to obtain an uncontaminated version of the events. Most subjects will talk with relatively little encouragement or prompting. Even if the subject shows signs of reluctance, it's often possible to persuade them into making a statement. Eliciting a statement is not a 50/50 proposal. A successful interview would have the subject speaking about 95% of the time, and the investigator only about 5%. This minimizes the investigator's contribution to the final statement.
Because Statement Analysis depends only upon the subject's statement, it is a "cold" technique. The bottom line is that with proper training, Statement Analysis is potentially more capable of development into a precise technique.
Statement Analysis is a versatile method because it is free from the constraints that limit other techniques. The subject is therefore unaware that his statement will be the object of specialized treatment and analysis. This technique has also been used to weed out false statements such as, robbery, abduction, rape, theft, or other crimes, and the best part of this is these statements are practically handed to you by the alleged "victim" without any questions.
As far as the education level of the writer speaker, it doesn't matter. What's far more important than a subject's grammar and spelling in comparison to the norm is the subject's use of language in comparison to himself.
Unlike both the polygraph and the voice stress analysis method, Statement Analysis does not require high-tech equipment, only a pencil and paper. Like other psychological and behavioral techniques, such as body language, profiling, etc. Statement Analysis serves to focus an investigation. It cannot be an end in itself, but can prove to be an invaluable tool for an investigator looking for vulnerable points in a seemingly seamless alibi.
In short, learning and applying this technique will change your career for the better.
It's not necessary to see the subject to analyze his statement. The interview is only necessary to obtain a statement. The tool for Statement Analysis is really the statement itself and the trained investigator's mind. The investigator goes over the statement word by word, line by line, picking out important and subtle details.
With "Forensic Analysis Software for TheirWords" (F.A.S.T.), a software macro developed by Det. Driscoll to assist in annotating statements for analysis, the analysis will be easy because it can be completed quickly, consistently, and accurately. Det. Driscoll's online course was designed with the investigator on-the-go in mind. The online course offers all of the training an investigator would need in a concise five-day online training course. This course was designed to offer you one-on-one training that can be completed at the student's own pace, an hour or less a day, with available help every step of the way. Det. Driscoll will answer your questions anytime; he'll assist you with any statements you may have questions about, he'll even add you to his online discussion group, a group of experienced analysts that review statements in minute detail as part of their training, practice, and exercise.
There is no better way to learn this technique, and no better training available. Det. Driscoll is an experienced police detective. As an investigator, he is one of you. He understands what it is you want and need to do the job. When the five days of this course are over, your training doesn't have to end, as you get lifetime technical support, the online discussion group, the certificate of completion and all the perks of attending the classroom training. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to send an email to Donald Bender, at Donald.Bender@cal.berkeley.edu
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