Deception and crime go hand in hand. The majority
of criminals do not want to be caught, arrested or punished for their
actions and the same is true for non-criminals. We all learn to
use deception early in life; a lamp breaks, a cup of juice gets spilled,
or the dog is painted green, and when asked what happened most kids will
shrug their shoulders, say, "I don't know", or tell you their sibling or
friend did it. The fact is, nobody wants to get into trouble and
the best way to stay out of trouble when you have done something wrong
is to deny it, blame others, say nothing, or my personal favorite is to
come up with an outlandish story about a magical beast swooping in and
To begin with, everyone has or does try to deceive at
some time. Please do not write to me and say you are offended
about that statement, or you have never lied in your life, because it is
a lie. People try to deceive for positive reasons. You may
tell your mother you loved her Sunday dinner, comment on how attractive
a friend's hair looks and brave enough to get into the conversation
about whether something makes someone look fat. In each of these
examples, telling the truth would cause the person to feel badly so we
lie, but with good intention.
Detection of deception is extremely difficult at best
and with an individual who has practiced lying and made it into an art
form, it becomes even more difficult. Below are some possible
indicators of deception (Ekman, 2001; Walters, 2000), however it
suggested that the reader search out additional information on the
subject due to the complexity of this topic. I will also state up
front here that detecting deception, even for those highly trained to do
so is difficult. I will also state up front that the following do
not necessarily mean someone is being deceptive and will also add that
the following items must be observed in context and in combination with
each other when trying to detect deception.
Eyes - Anyone who has seen the movie The
Negotiator learned that one can tell when someone is lying by
watching the eyes and whether they move up and to the left or right
while speaking. I am not even going to repeat the lines of the
movie for fear of adding to a myth. It is also believed by many
that not maintaining eye contact, shifting of eyes or completely
avoiding eye contact is a certain sign of deception. This is
unreliable and can be controlled for the most part by concentrating on
maintaining eye contact. Blinking, which can be controlled to a
limited extent, is mostly an involuntary action and it is believed that
an increase in blinking occurs when an individual is rapidly attempting
to create and recall thoughts (Walters, 2000).
Voice - The voice stress analyzer can be used to
detect deception. This is controversial and since I am not capable
of providing an informed opinion, I will give readers a
link to read more about this in
depth. Stuttering, changes in volume, pitch, cadence, mumbling,
pauses, laughing, and the use of filler words such as "um" and "ah" all
have their place in detecting deception. Again, all this must be
taken into context and in combination with other variables.
Body Movement/Gestures/Posture - Although body
language can be controlled, there are times that a person will
unconsciously perform body movements or gestures while speaking that may
provide some indication of deception. Most people perform some
form of gesturing while speaking. If I say, "I caught a fish",
there is a very good chance my hands are going to provide you the
listener with an imaginary ruler between my two hands indicating the
length of the fish. The movement of the legs are also believed to
hold the key to detecting deception if a person is crossing their legs,
tapping their feet and shaking of a leg are several examples.
However, legs usually indicate stress rather than outright deception and
are another area that can be controlled and manipulated by someone
attempting to be deceptive. Leaning toward and away from a speaker
is unreliable and can be controlled for effect by an individual.
Indications of deception occur when the body language contradicts the
verbal messages and when gestures are overly emphasized or noticeably
absent. Again, this is not an absolute.
Content of Statements - Contradictions within
statements or variations to stories.
Ekman, P. (2001). Telling lies: Clues to deceit
in the marketplace, politics and marriage. New York, NY: W.W.
Norton & Company.
Walters, S. (2000). The truth about lying: How
to spot a lie and protect yourself from deception. Naperville, IL: