Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Word "Never" in Analysis

Let's look at the word "never" in Statement Analysis, since it has come up recently in the case of Lance Armstrong.  In interview after interview, as he spoke unscripted, he was not able to bring himself to say "I did not dope", in any form.  Our principle is:  If someone cannot bring himself to say it, we are not permitted to say it for him.  Statement Analysis applied to several of his interviews concluded:  deception indicated. He often used the word "never" but he did not give a reliable denial.  The conclusion of the matter is that Lance Armstrong cheated, even if other cyclists did too, and decided not to go up against what has been reported to have been ten (10) eye witnesses who testified that they saw him dope, or doped with him including blood transfusion and the use of EPO, to give him an athletic advantage. His use of "never" is not a substitute for a reliable denial.

Please note something similar with "yes or no" questions:  "Yes or No" questions are less stressful to lie to. Therefore, they are not to be considered reliable denials, by themselves. 

We also do not want to hear reflective language:

Q, Did you have anything to do with your daughter's disappearance?

A. No, I did not have anything to do with my daughter's disappearance. 

This is not the free editing process, it is reflective language. He answered using the Interviewer's own words, not his own.  

Unreliable does not mean deceptive. 

It can be true that he did not have anything to do with his daughter's disappearance, but we want to hear it in his own words. For an example of the question, "Did you have anything to do with your daughter's disappearance, look at the stunning answer from Sergio Celis, father of missing 6 year old, Isabel Celis here to read the analysis of his answer. 

Marion Jones was another who said she "never" used and loved to say she never tested positive, rather than issue a reliable denial.  Statement Analysis conclusion here of Marion Jones who, according to many, seemed credible in her 'performance.'

If "I don't remember" is the number one lie given in court (Ekman), and it must be that "never" may be  the number one lie told by the guilty when issuing a denial.

Principle:  Do not accept the word "never" as a reliable denial when issued alone.  

This will need some explanation as context is everything when it comes to the use of the word "never" in a denial.  "Never" should not be taken to mean "no" in a denial.

The word "never" can be the truth. I have "never" killed anyone.  This is truth.
  The word "never" can be one of the most commonly used words when lying.
I have "never" told a lie.  This is not a truthful statement.

How can we know the difference?

Answer:  it comes down to the skill of the analyst.  Here is why:

We have various categories of which to put responses or denials.

1.  Truthful
2.  Deceptive
3.  Reliable
4.  Unreliable
5.  Leaning to be cleared.
6.  Undetermined

Is a denial reliable?  Is it likely truthful, yet still not reliable?  Is it unreliable, yet we believe the subject? Is it as a result of an "ever" question?  Is it alone?  Does it follow a reliable denial?  How does it fit in the overall analysis?

We must be careful to conclude deception indicated, and not make snap judgements.  Even truthful stories sometimes contain indicators where we have doubts, but still, overall, do not conclude "deception indicated."

Here is an example of how complicated the issue of the word "never" is:

Case:  Allegation by employer:  Subject smoked pot on duty, last Tuesday, while operating heavy machinery.
The company's Human Resources department is called upon to investigate.  With the union contract,
it is not likely that the subject will take a urinalysis.  The union objects to it, and even if innocent, if the subject submits to the urinalysis, his co-workers will be angry at him.

In the interview, the 34 year old male subject said:

"I never smoked pot in my life."

We need more information:

1.  Was he asked, "Have you ever smoked pot in your life?"
2.   Was this in the Free Editing Process, or as a result of a question?

The statement, "I never smoked pot in my life" is not a reliable denial.  The word "never" is the most often used in lying.

If someone is asked an "ever" question, the response of "never" is appropriate, though still not reliable. It can be the truth, yet we cannot state with certainty, that it is true.  This is why the "ever" questions can be very weak.

Recently, a Human Resources director investigated a claim of verbal abuse with the subject having screamed at others, "Get the f*** back in" repeatedly.  In fact, the employee had a reputation for using swear words regularly.  When her interview came up she said,

"I have never used the f bomb in my life.  Not at work, not in my private life.  I have never dropped the f bomb."

It is really difficult for anyone to say this and be truthful.  She refused to sign her disciplinary note from her supervisor and repeated, "I have never even used the f word in my life."  

Her friends, family, and co worker all have a good chuckle at her denial.

The word "never" is often used by liars for emphasis.  Lance Armstrong said that he "never" used doping, even while employing the pronoun, "I."  It is not a reliable denial, by itself.

"I did not smoke pot on Tuesday" is a very strong denial.  If the worker under HR investigation said, "I didn't smoke pot on Tuesday.  I have never smoked pot in my life" it would be considered a reliable denial, which probably would show consistency.  Yet, "I never smoked pot" by itself, is not reliable. This is the difference.

Recall Mark Fuhrman, police officer for LA during the OJ trial.  He testified under oath, "I have never used the 'n' word" instead of issuing a reliable denial such as "I didn't call OJ a 'n' word."

 He, lying, went to the word "never" instead of the reliable denial.  He used the 'n' word so often that it did not take long for the world to find out.

The word "never" is something that, when substituted for the word "no" or when substituted for a reliable denial, is to be deemed:


It cannot be, by itself, concluded as deception.  We need more information.  This is what makes the analysis of the word "never" something that requires the skill of the analyst in looking at the overall big picture.

There are many things in my life that I have "never" done, and a statement such as "I have never punched a woman" or "I have never been to the Grand Canyon" are, in fact, truthful statements, but they should be classified as "unreliable:  more data needed", especially when they are in an investigation of domestic violence, or something to do with the location of the Grand Canyon.  This is why we do not say "deception indicated due to the use of the "never" by itself.

With Lance Armstrong, regrettably, he used.  He used "never" in a manner that was unreliable, and he avoided issuing reliable denials for many years.  He can point to the number of tests all he wants because an innocent person would have said, "I didn't use _____" in a specific manner, early, often, and without sensitivity indicators.

I also believe that other cyclists used, which is why it does not feel like "cheating" to him, and why his statement went to the 'mountains' and the other cyclists and the work outs.

Yet, Statement Analysis gets to the truth and the truth is, over many years and many opportunities to say the most simple of words, he failed to.

One night, I had a case that a company boss asked me to help his HR department with.  It was another human resources dispute that came down to one person calling another person a particularly offensive name.   The HR investigator needed help and had another of the "She said; He said" cases where, if he is lying about calling her a particular name, he is likely lying about denying the harassment that she claims.  He claims that it didn't happen and that he "never" said that word.

 Lawsuits are the result of these types of cases, so precision is important.  I have worked on a number of these claims over the years and have resolved almost all of them through written statements, and a few with interviews.  He faxed over her statement, but had yet to take a written one from him.  His claim is that he never discussed sex and to "prove" that she was lying, claimed that he did not use the insulting word that she claims.  The boss could not remember his exact words and wished he had told him to be quiet and put it in writing.  It was a mistake but it was something that could be rectified but, with time an issue, I agreed to interview him.

 I told the boss:   "I will interview the employee.  He knows the accusation.  If he did not call her that word, he will tell me so in the first few minutes, but I will also note the length of the interview and how long it takes for him to get to things.  If he said it, I'll know it."  He caught my confident tone.

He said, "are you sure?  Why are you so sure?"

My confidence is not found within me, nor is it with the subject, but within staying to a trusted system that teaches me to allow the subject's words to guide me.  Because he wants me to find out if the man used a single word to the woman, it is actually pretty easy.  It would be a phone interview, which I like because I don't become entangled in all the popular police strategies of sitting very close and intimidating, or sitting distant, and so on.  Studies have shown that people are more likely to be truthful when giving answers through a computer than face to face, and although the phone is not a computer, I know the subject will feel safe. It is not an interrogation:  it is an interview. I get my information from listening, not from bullying.  Ignorance yields ignorance, not information, and more damage is done in ignorance in speaking with a criminal suspect than in any other part of an investigation.  Even botched evidence can be discounted if the subject's own words can be presented.

In interviews, I say very little.  I ask open ended questions to begin,  and do not interrupt.  I let the subject talk on and on and guide me.  I ask follow up questions based upon the introduced language.  I followed the same strategy, and here is what the employee said:

"I would never use that word!  I would never and I would never say it because when I was growing up, that is what people used to call me.  It was very hurtful and I know how hurtful it can be.  I never said it. "

He was impassioned about it.  I have to be careful not to lead him but I need him to say the magic words, "I didn't call her a ___" in any form.  Just say it.  Let me end this silly dispute now.

He continued on about his childhood.  He told me more than he knew he was revealing.  I gently guided him back to his co worker:

"She says you called her ____.  How do you speak to it?", I asked.

"I already told you.  I would never say it."

Interviewer:  "I know you said that.  You said you "would never" but you didn't tell me that you didn't. "

Subject:  "I just did.  Didn't you hear me?  I just said I would never call her that."

Interviewer:  Yes, here are your words:  "I would never call her  ______", is that correct?

Subject:  "Yes, that is what I said."

Interviewer:   "You never called her that.  Have you ever called anyone else that?"

Subject :  "Never"

I asked the "ever" question to lock him in.  I assume he has used the word before, in anger, but this lets him be either honest: "I have used it, but I did not call her that" or he will take the grandiose
high moral position and claim to have never used it.  He took the overarching answer.

Interviewer:   "Sir, you have told me that you would never, and you used the would "would", but not that you didn't."

Subject:  "Exactly. You got it.  There.  Are we done?

Interviewer:    "No, we are not done."

I knew that he understood the difference but I wanted to give him more opportunity.

Interviewer:  "Tell me what you did say to her"

I attempt to be as bland as possible, and use neutral language.  He did not know that I had her statement and that he not only is alleged to have called her the ______ word, but that he engaged her in sexual talk.  I don't want to introduce the topic of sex because I want him to.  She did say he introduced the sex talk while talking about his dog having puppies (there's a line for you, huh?_.

Subject:  "What do you mean?"

Interviewer:    "What did you talk about?"

Subject:  "Nothing really."

Interviewer:  "What does 'nothing' sound like?

Subject:   "You know."

Interviewer:   "I may know, but I need you to tell me."

He would not go for it, and by now, I am under the distinct impression that we are not working together, but I am in a battle with him.  It is me and against him.  His victory is to say little, and my victory is to get to the truth.  My next series of questions yield nothing.  I finally have to use something to get him going:

Interviewer:  "She said you talked about a lot of things."

Subject:  "Yeah, like what?"

Finally, my 'pulling of teeth' is starting to get to him and he may talk.  He is curious to learn what I know but it is he that has the information on what he said.  It cannot come from me.

Interviewer:  "  "I am hoping to hear the topics from you."

Subject:  "I don't remember."

Having a sex talk with his co-worker is not something likely to slip his mind.  Having a litter of puppies is not likely something to slip his mind.  It is here that I know he has a need to withhold information from me.  I do pull out something to provoke him:

Interviewer:  "If she said you talked about your cat, would it be a lie?"

Subject:  "Cat? I hate cats.  It was about my dog!"

I could almost feel his hand going  right to his mouth!  It was a major 'Oops!' moment for him.

Interviewer:  "Oh, that's right, dog."

Subject:    "well...I guess you already spoke to her."

I hadn't.  I had her written statement which showed veracity about her conversation with him, but dropped pronouns about her work hours and duties.  (very typical)

Interviewer:    "Why not tell me the truth?"

Subject:    "She was being a f***ing _____.  You know what I mean?"

Interviewer:  "Yes."

Subject:    "I just screwed myself."

Interviewer:  "Yes."

Subject:    "But you knew and that is why you kept asking me about 'would never'.  You're  a tricky *****  ******** aren't you?"

Interviewer:  "yes"

Subject:  Do you have to report this?

Interviewer:  "yes"

The use of "never" was not accepted as a credible denial, even when buttressed with a sad childhood story where others used the word to describe him.


Tania Cadogan said...

Listen to what is said not, what you think they said.

If you listen to what you think they said and by default what you think they meant you are then not listeing to them but to yourself.
Your own experiences of life will taint your interpretation, this is how deceptive people get away with crimes. They rely on the interpretation of the listener.

Take a step back from the situation.
I know this is hard in cases involving children since our natural instinct is to protect and assume no one would cause harm to them.
You wouldn't as a parent so they can't either as parents.

listen to the words, don't take sides, the words will reveal the truth.
Assume all are telling the truth so you know what to expect and then look for the unexpected, they will stand out more.

Look for what should be there that isn't as well as what shouldn't be there that is.

Practice makes perfect and never be afraid to ask questions (not compound ones)
Ask for clarification, don't introdce new language and be patient. Sometimes it is blatant, other times require a bit more thought.

Anonymous said...

Can this be updated with Peyton Manning's statement ?
Saw sensitive use of word never.