Monday, March 21, 2011

FBI Agent Explains How To Spot Liars

Hi everyone! Today I want to share a little of my professional world with you. I'm in my last semester of graduate school for my master of arts degree in forensic psychology. Forensic psychology is psychology that relates to the law. One of the aspects I deal with is deception. I've spent a lot of time researching deception and I love the topic! So I thought I'd share a short assignment I had to do. This assignment was to find a video on the internet (umm...YouTube!) that discusses how law enforcement detects deceptions in interrogations or interviews. I then had to identify three behaviors that are thought to indicate deception. Focusing on one of those behaviors, I had to find a scholarly journal article that either refutes or supports the behavior. Here is my response...enjoy!
In a news report I found on You Tube from KOCO-TV out of Oklahoma City, a retired FBI agent explains how he interprets nonverbal actions to detect deception. He specifically names gaze aversion tactics such as looking up to the right while speaking as an act of creating a lie. According to the agent, if one is looking up to the left, then something is being remembered. However, this is only true for people with dominant right hands. The opposite is true for left handed people. Shifty eyes are also indicative of deception according to this video. The video also names behavior such as rubbing the back of the neck, tapping fingers, and looking at their watch as signs of nervousness which the agent deems is caused by deception. Finally, the video mentions defensive postures such as leaning back in a chair, keeping hands tightly folded, and arms crossed as signs of deception.
The underlying theory is that persons engaging in deception are invoking fight or flight or freeze and hide autonomic reactions. Fight or flight and freeze and hide reactions are invoked when a person is confronted with a fearful situation. It is important to note that signs of nervousness and defensiveness may have causes other than deception. Think about people with ADHD who continually tap fingers, bounce knees or do other behaviors to release energy. Additionally, when stakes are high, many people will display defensiveness when they are fearful. Fear responses do not always equal deception.
For this response, I am choosing to concentrate on the gaze aversion techniques mentioned. These gaze aversion techniques included looking up to the right or left and shifty eyes. In other words, looking any where other than the interviewer or interrogator. Mann, Vrij, Fisher, and Robinson (2008) note that it is a common belief among laypersons and police officers that gaze aversion, nervousness, and body movements are signs of deceit. In fact, police officers frequently rely on gaze aversion and body movements as signs of deceit. A popular police manual, Criminal Interrogations and Confessions (Inbau, Reid, Buckly, and Jayne, 2001), describes these actions as forms of deceit. Yet, deception research does not support any of these actions as signs of actual deceit. Man, Vrij, Fisher and Robinson (2008) note that relying on gaze aversion (as well as “unnatural posture changes, self adaptors, and placing the hand over the mouth or eyes when speaking”) to detect deception is “ineffective, at best, and perhaps dysfunctional.” In fact, when these cues are focused on, observers perform significantly worse at detecting deception.
In Mann, Vrij, Fisher and Robinson’s (2008) study, police officers in a training course were shown videotaped interviews “of suspects who lied or told the truth during their police interviews.” Police officers were divided into a visual condition where they could only see the suspect during the interview, an audio condition where they could only hear the suspect during the interview, and a control condition where they could both hear and see the suspect during the interview. The results indicated an average overall accuracy score of M = 58% (SD = 0.16). This was significantly higher than chance alone. The police officers “who were exposed only to visual cues achieved lower lie and truth accuracy scores than participants who were exposed only to the audio” cues or the control group who was exposed to both audio and visual cues. Moreover, numerous studies (e.g. Davis, Markus, & Walters, 2006; Mann & Vrij, 2006; Mann et al., 2004, 2006; and Vrij & mann, 2001; Vrij, Mann, Robbins, & Robinson, 2006) have been conducted that use real-life material and report these same findings (as cited in Mann, Vrij, Fisher, & Robinson, 2008).
KOCOTV (2008). FBI Agent Explains How to Spot Liars [Video file]. Retrieved from
Mann, S. A., Vrij, A., Fisher, D. P., & Robinson, M. (2008). See no lies, hear no lies: Difference in discrimination accuracy and response bias when watching or listening to police suspect interviews. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22, 1062-1071. doi: 10.1002/acp.1406
(c) Tonya Klar, 2011. Please note this is my scholarly, academic work and should not be plagiarized.


Holli said...

Thanks for sharing this Tonya!! You know I love it :)

Roberta Laliberte said...

OMG! This is cool! Funny how mom's know this stuff already huh! LOL!