Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Of Course Not" in Denials

                                                                      by Peter Hyatt

We have studied reliable denials and it is important to remember that an unreliable denial is just that: it is not reliable.

It does not, necessarily, indicate guilt.

Principle of Reliable Denial.

According to the principles of SCAN LSI teaches that a Reliable Denial will have three (3) components:

1.  The pronoun "I"
2.  Past Tense verb:  "did not" or "didn't"    Please note that LSI does not make a distinction between the two "did not" and the casual "didn't", though the Reid Technique claims that "didn't" is even more reliable because of it's casual contraction.  I do not agree.
3.  Event or Allegation Specific

If there are less than three components, the denial is "unreliable"; just as if there are more than three.

Next, the Denial must come during the "Free Editing Process", that is, where the subject is freely speaking for himself, and not entering the language of the Interviewer.

Here are some examples of Reliable versus Unreliable:

"I didn't steal nothing" is unreliable.
"I didn't steal the money" may be unreliable, in context.  I have seen thieves who claimed that their company "owed" them money and they took money at an opportunity, claiming it was owed.
"I didn't take the money" is reliable.  Remember, this sentence should stand if the rest of the interview supports it.  It is extremely rare that a guilty person can say this sentence, in the Free Editing Process.  If the subject produces this sentence on his own, and is asked why he should be believed and says "Because I told the truth", the investigation is over.  He didn't do it.  This is the "No man can lie twice" principle.

Interviewer:  "Did you take the department's missing item?"
Subject:     "I did not take the department's missing item" is not reliable, simply because he parroted the Interviewer's language.  Let him speak for himself and see if he produces this on his own.

Interviewer:  "Did you take our store's missing necklace?"
Subject:  "I did not take our store's missing jewelry."   Unreliable    This is not only parroting, but we should note that the "necklace"changed into "jewelry."

In an interview for shrinkage, use the morally neutral "take" rather than "steal."

"Didn't do it" is unreliable for dropping the pronoun, "I"

"We didn't do it" when speaking for oneself, is unreliable.

In an interview, I sometimes will prompt the subject in order to elicit a reliable denial.  Given enough opportunity, it may come to the skill of the analyst to conclude "deception indicated" especially in a lengthy interview.

We see, at times, transcripts where the subject has lots of opportunity to issue a denial. The recent post from the journalist in Hawaii showed this.  When the polygraph issue is raised, we immediately look for:

"I told the truth" and "I didn't do it."

"How do you speak to the allegation?"

I have asked,

"If you were going to tell a judge something, what would you say?"  

I do whatever it takes to get the subject to talk about the allegation.  Some might avoid it not realizing what he is accused of, especially in a Human Resources investigation, as these interviews often begin with,

"Do you know why I am here?"

This is to see if the person shows an awareness of guilt, or if the person knows that there has been an accusation made.

Of Course

But what about "of course" in "yes or no" questions?

This is important to understand.

"Of course I did not do it" is a perfect example of an unreliable denial.

The words "of course" indicate that the subject wants us to accept something without question, which is the point of these additional words.  Of course, we want everyone to understand our speech, which is why we communicate.  Here, the words "of course" are used in a simple and appropriate manner.

"Of course I did not take the missing money."

Recently, ESPN revisited the Tanya Harding - Nancy Kerrigan assault.  Mark McClish wrote about it on his website, here.

Harding was asked if she knew about the attack beforehand.

She answered, "I swear on everything holy, may God strike me down, I did not know until three days after we got back from Nationals."

Deception indicated.  

Interviewer:  "Were you involved in the planning of..."

Tonya Harding interrupted him and said, "Of course, not!"

This was a "yes or no" question and she answered with "of course not", instead of "No, I was not involved" or simply "no."

When one says "of course", the subject wants you to believe without questioning.  Literally, she is saying "accept what I say" rather than issue a denial.  These two additional words are critical.

Here, we conclude that Tonya Harding did know about the attack and was deceptive in her televised interview.  "Of course, not" is to not deny, but to impress upon the listener that they should not question the subject.

Can someone issue an unreliable denial and still be innocent?

Yes.  We do not always conclude, especially with just a single indicator.  One that may issue an unreliable denial may just need a prompt to properly address the allegation.

Work with statistics and be 'statistically minded' when it comes to discerning truth from deception, or deception from truth.

When we say "such and such is 80% likely", please keep in mind that there is another 20% out there waiting for a response.

This is where the skill of the analyst is seen:  patience.

There are just some statements that are too short to draw a conclusion.

Other times, it is quite plain to us.

"I did not harm the child" will not pass the test for reliable denial when we know the child was not so much "harmed" but murdered or killed.  This minimization of the allegation is a violation of component number three.

Of course, we don't take, without question, what someone says when he says "Of course I didn't do it!"

We note the violation of the principle of the reliable denial.

Of course.


JoAnn said...

I hear this and I say this often in reply to a question like:
"Do you mind driving me to (going with me, taking this to, whatever).......?
"Of course not."

Is this the same as saying "No, I don't mind." Or is this a way of saying " I DO mind, but I'll do it anyway." ?

John Mc Gowan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Mc Gowan said...

Interviewer: "Were you INVOLVED in the planning of..."

Tonya Harding interrupted him and said, "Of course, not!"

This was a "yes or no" question and she answered with "of course not", instead of "No, I was not INVOLVED" or simply "no."

If she was asked "Were you INVOLVED?" And her reply was "I was not involved" Is this to be accepted as a denial only. (As stated above)But NOT a "Reliable Denial, because she enters into the language of the interviewer?.


elf said...

Today is my friend, Tracy Pickett, birthday. She would be 36 years old. Tracy's been missing since August of 1992 when she accepted a ride home from a strange man.
22 years.
Please say a little prayer for Tracy. She is still loved and missed by many.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!!!!! I learn more on here in 5 mins than hours reading...watching!!!!(me).

Statement Analysis Blog said...


Thank you for your kind comment. Please choose a name.

This is a good reminder for me to post more lessons, and not just news accounts.

I sometimes fail to remember that there are new readers here.

Statement Analysis Blog said...


Even if she had said, "No, I was not involved" it would be unreliable, at this point, due to parroting language.

We would then move on to see if she says these words on her own.

An unreliable denial is not the conclusion, but a point in matter.

I have had many interviews in which an unreliable denial was issued, but the person "didn't do it", and only needed more time to express this.

If enough soft ball pitches are given, without hitting it out...

now that's a different story.


Statement Analysis Blog said...

I'm sorry, Elf.

Was there ever an arrest? A suspect?

statements by anyone??


Polo said...

Peter, those are really lovely pictures. Have a blessed day.

elf said...

Joplin police department (Joplin Missouri) had the suspect in custody but lacked evidence to arrest him. He admitted to giving Tracy a ride but said he dropped her off near a Joplin pawn shop. The police never released the mans name. No statements to analyze. Around 2005 they tried to drain a mine hole but were unsuccessful, supposedly the tip came from a death bed confession that Tracy may be in that mine hole.
Tracy was a sweet, innocent girl. She deserves to be remembered and found.

TxTchr said...

Peter, I share what I'm learning on your blog with my teacher co-workers all the time because I've learned so much - especially when it comes to dealing with parents. I'm also learning the importance of asking a single question ("What happened?") and then listening to the response carefully to detect when students (AND parents!) are lying. Your analyses help me as a classroom teacher (and I'm a 21 yr veteran). Thank you!

MemphisPat said...

Elf, I pray that Tracy's family gets some peace and that her body is recovered. You're a sweet friend to keep her memory alive. God bless you.

Henny said...

I read this blog a lot but don't comment because someone else usually says what i would say. But since you brought up the subject of reliable denials, I thought I would relate an experience I recently had. I was watching my grandson - I was in the kitchen and he was close by but just in another room and he was building a tower. Something happened and the tower fell. He got angry and yelled at me "You knocked it down".
It was a ridiculous accusation because I wasn't even in the room with him and I was startled that he accused me of this. But what struck me was that the reflexive and immediate words that came out of my mouth were "I did not!" He kept accusing me of knocking it down but all I kept saying was "I did not!" As it was happening, I was even getting a little angry with him for continuing to deny the obvious, but what kept coming out of my mouth was "I did not" or "I didn't do it". Even as I got angry and my brain was saying to me "how do you convince him that you couldn't have done that because you were in the other room?" I didn't say things like "I would never do that to you" or "I was no where near you" or anything defensive like that. I just kept saying "I did not".
I am relating this because I see so much discussion about how/why/ qualifiers are something we might consider using when we issue a denial. But this experience really struck me - how reflexive the language was that came out of my mouth. There was no thought about how to frame the denial - it just came out - "I did not"

Statement Analysis Blog said...


Thank you. I hope they make others smile, as they make me smile, seeing such a young little fellow.


Tania Cadogan said...

A top judge campaigned to support a paedophile group that tried to legalise sex with children, a newspaper claims.

The Mail on Sunday said Lord Justice Fulford was a founder member of a campaign to defend the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).

The judge told the BBC he had "no memory" of this, but had in the 1970s been involved with a civil liberties group to which PIE was affiliated.

He said he had never supported PIE and child abuse was "wholly wrong"

The Daily Mail has run a series of articles questioning the links between PIE and civil liberties group the National Council for Civil Liberties during the 1970s and early 1980s.

PIE had called for greater tolerance and paedophile "rights" and campaigned for a lowering of the age of consent to 10.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, her husband and fellow Labour MP Jack Dromey and former Labour health secretary Patricia Hewitt were all prominent figures in the NCCL, which granted PIE affiliate status in 1975.

Ms Hewitt has apologised for having "got it wrong", while Mr Dromey has accused the Daily Mail of "dirty, gutter journalism". Ms Harman has said she "regrets" the links between the two groups but she has "nothing to apologise for".
'Very sorry'

The Mail on Sunday said its investigation had found that Lord Justice Fulford, named last year as an adviser to the Queen, was a founder member of a campaign set up to defend PIE against criminal charges.

The newspaper also claimed he:

Planned demonstrations outside courts where defendants were on trial
Wrote an article claiming PIE was a way for paedophiles to "make friends and offer each other mutual support"
Sought help with the campaign from future Labour minister Ms Hewitt, then in charge of the NCCL
Attended meetings with PIE founder Tom O'Carroll, who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in 2006 for distributing child abuse images.
Was praised by PIE for "coming to its defence"

In a statement, Lord Justice Fulford said he had been "briefly involved" with the NCCL and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, among other civil liberty campaign groups.

He said his sole concern was - and remained - the way individuals were treated in the judicial process, despite some of their views.

The Mail on Sunday said Lord Justice Fulford was a founder member of an organisation called Conspiracy Against Public Morals, which it says was set up to defend PIE leaders facing criminal charges.

Lord Justice Fulford said he had "no memory" of being involved with the "foundation or the detail of the work of this campaign".

He added that any contribution he made would have related to concerns about the nature of the charge of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, "which could be used against a wide variety of people in potentially inappropriate ways".

"I have always been deeply opposed to paedophilia and I never supported the views or objectives of the Paedophile Information Exchange," he said.

Tania Cadogan said...

Lord Justice Fulford said he attended several meetings of the NCCL's gay rights committee, at which Mr O'Carroll was "sometimes present", and this had left him feeling "extremely uncomfortable".

"On reflection, the NCCL gay rights committee should never have allowed members of PIE to attend any of its meetings, and a clear and real separation should have been created between the two organisations.

"I am very sorry for what happened. I have never espoused or in any way supported the objectives of PIE - the abuse of children - which I consider wholly wrong."

The judge said there had been "nothing to report" to the Lord Chancellor's department "at the time of my various appointments".

Never does not mean did not.
this is a weak statement and concerning what with the qualifiers as well.

"I am very sorry for what happened. I have never espoused or in any way supported the objectives of PIE - the abuse of children - which I consider wholly wrong."

He is very sorry for what happened but doesn't tell us the happening he is sorry for.
Never does not mean did not.
never is only applicable if the question is have you ever...?
If he cannot tell us he did not espouse or support the objectives of PIE i cannot say it for him.

The abuse of children doesn't say what kind of abuse, it could be emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
Abuse is a generalisation so what is his definition of abuse?

He links the abuse to PIE yet PIE has never said they wanted to abuse children, they wanted a lower age of consent and for paedophiles to be treated the same as gays and other groups.
They don't abuse children they claim they 'love them' and want to give them the freedom to have sexual relations with adults.

He tells us the abuse of children is wholly wrong yet cannot bring himself to say the sexual abuse or even mention sex.

I am not buying his denial.

CEC said...


I can imagine how frustrating that would be, to have your grandson think you knocked down his tower.

Peter, when thinking how I might have responded if I were Henny, I think I would do the same thing, but might, in frustration, eventually say something like "Honey, Grandma wasn't even in the room with you!" and also add, "and I would never knock down your tower!"

Obviously, Henny did not knock down the tower, and I wouldn't do that, either, but wouldn't it be normal to "qualify" in this case, since we'd be trying to "get through" to a young child? Just curious, because grandparents would never want their grandchild to think they'd do something like that!

Lemon said...

I'm sorry about your friend Tracy.

Henny said...

Thank you for responding. But i think you are missing my point. when you are speculating about things you are only imagining yourself in the situation. When we are imagining things, we are, on purpose, deceptively programing our brains to tell us what we would say under the circumstance. The point of my story was that, as I listened to my self respond to an unjust accusation, the automatic defense i made was "I did not knock down the tower". I could imagine myself saying a lot of things to him, but what came out, what was strongest, was "I didn't do it." There wasn't anything else to say. My point of the story wasn't to get sympathy because my 4 year old grandson accused me of something I didn't do, my point was that my brain automatically selected the strongest defense possible, and it didn't include qualifiers.

Floridamomma said...

elf, prayers your friend is found.

Peter, as mom to teens, I love your lessons! oh, I've learned so much, I can't help but to snicker at them at times. just the other day, I was placing blame on a teen but upon interrogation and the free will process, realized blame deserved to be placed on the darling 3 yr old! gasp!!

CEC said...


I'm sorry if you believed I thought you were trying to garner sympathy from your story about your grandson. I did not think that. My talking about the qualifiers of wanting to explain to the grandchild that I would never do that to them, etc., was secondary to the natural denial that you issued to your grandchild. Yes, the parts I added were speculation on how I would respond AFTER the initial denial. It was based on the emotional thought of never wanting one's grandchild to think they would intentionally cause them harm. Again, I'm sorry if I didn't explain myself well. I know you didn't use the qualifiers and I was really just wanting to know if qualifiers, when used in a case like this, can STILL indicate a reliable denial.

Paula said...

OT - Peter - or anyone...can someone provide analysis for this?

"Today was a day we will NEVER forget! Called my mom Kathy to see what her and my sister Alissa were doing. They were at my grandma and aunt Deb's (Deborah) house.... She tells me my uncle mel went and got the mail and there was a gold box in the mailbox... Very strange and everybody was a little nervous about it.... As they looked inside it was ashes!!! She's telling me this and I'm like oh my god mom there was a house that was broke into and the people sons ashes were stolen!! She called the sheriff and they said it would be awhile before they were there so I had to try to find this lady! Well I found her through FB and google lol and met her at my grandmas driveway.... It was her son!! He passed away of cancer in Novemeber.... It was so freaking AWESOME! Not only did we find Jimmy her son but we now have a couple new lifelong friends! Such an amazing story! Debi I'm so happy that this all turned out!!"

Here's what happened. A longtime friend of mine had her house broken into. They were gone for a couple of days and the thieves were in the house for a very long time. Long enough to unbolt a safe hidden in the back of a closet. They took everything in the house that had some value, loaded it up in the victim's car and left. They also stole their son's ashes in a gold urn. Today, they were found in a mailbox out in the country. Apparently the lady who found the stolen property is the victim's hair dresser. I'm not buying the coincidence. The person making the statement was a relative of the woman who found them. She took it upon herself to find the victim. Any anlaysis is appreciated.

Lemon said...

Holly Bobo murder suspect investigated in the attempted abduction of another woman

Paula said...

Ummm....Anonymous @9:29pm- what I posted happened on Friday, the ashes were "returned" today - assuming you aren't a troll - I am asking if someone would give me their thoughts on her statement. This isn't a "story" about stoners, and it isn't a joke.

Tania Cadogan said...

Today was a day we will NEVER forget! Called my mom Kathy to see what her and my sister Alissa were doing.
Dropped pronoun, if she can't take ownership i can't do it for her.

They were at my grandma and aunt Deb's (Deborah) house.... She tells me my uncle mel went and got the mail and there was a gold box in the mailbox...
Change from past tense called to present tense tells.
Grandma doesn't get a proper social introduction(no name) yet she does a proper one for Aunt deb and Uncle mel as well as a proper introduction for her mom and sister.

Very strange and everybody was a little nervous about it.... As they looked inside it was ashes!!! She's telling me this and I'm like oh my god mom there was a house that was broke into and the people sons ashes were stolen!!
what was very strange? she doesn't tell su so i can't assume.
Looked is back to past tense then she goes back to present with telling.
This is close, that is distancing.

She called the sheriff and they said it would be awhile before they were there so I had to try to find this lady!
Now we are back to past tense.
So explains why something happened making it sensitive.
Why did she HAVE to try and find this lady?
This is close, that is distancing.
She places herself close to the lady.
The SO is in relation to finding THIS lady.
Since the police had been called and advised it would be some time, why not go to the police station to hand it in or simply wait for LE since there was no real rush.
What was the reason for the rush to find THIS lady?

Well I found her through FB and google lol and met her at my grandmas driveway.... It was her son!!
well is the equivalent of a mental pause for thought, to buy time.
is this a pause to think how to continue the story?
Notice she is now back in the past tense with found and met.

He passed away of cancer in Novemeber....
Is this the introduction of extra unnecessary information?
is it relevant to the story as in why he died?

It was so freaking AWESOME! Not only did we find Jimmy her son but we now have a couple new lifelong friends! Such an amazing story! Debi I'm so happy that this all turned out!!"
Here we are still in the past tense was.
Is it not freaking awesome now?
But can be used to refute or negate.
Why insert but when she could have easily said not only did we find Jimmy, we now have a couple of new friends.
What is such an amazing story/
She doesn't say this is an amazing story or it is an amzing story..
She is happy this all turned out, turned out what?
She doesn't say this turned out well or had a happy ending.
She simply says turned out...

There are a few red flags but not enough to say conclusively truth or deception.
I have a problem with her not taking ownership and the switching to presenttense (story telling)in relation to finding the urn and then past tense in relation to calling the cops and looking for the lady.

Randie said...


Awesome article~

Doty said...

Would someone explain if the passage of time effects the usage of "of course not".Or if the accused perceives the accusation as rediculous, does this affect the usage of "of course not".
on a Dr. Phil show, an adult woman was making allegations of childhood sexual abuse and witnessing murder against her mother and father. The allegations were extensive and seemed unbelievable on their face. Dr. Phil even tracked down the supposed murder victims to show the woman that her "memories" were false.
The mother also passed a polygraph (father was deceased). The mother never issued a reliable denial but was clearly innocent.
Why was this?
was deceased).

Statement Analysis Blog said...


please re-read the article slowly.

One can not give a reliable denial and still not have done it.

This is why we do not say that unreliable = deception.

We say that unreliable is not reliable.


Nic said...

elf, prayers for your lost friend Tracey.

Paula said...

Thanks HobNob - I found a few interesting things out after I posted this for analysis. She can't commit to making the call because she didn't - her mom called her. The other red flag I have is that she already knew who she was, she didn't need to look her up on FB or Google. The local news channel had posted the story two nights prior, so she could have contacted them for her information. I also have a problem with her not taking it directly to the police department...the urn is evidence in a crime. Additionally, they called the sheriff (county jurisdiction) when they knew the crime happened in town (city jurisdiction).

Here's what I think happened. I think that my friend informed her hair dresser that she was going to be gone for a few days. Hair dresser took note and possibly said something to someone who took it upon themselves to find the house, knowing they'd have several days to ransack the house. Her uncle found the ashes in his mailbox? The urn was not open when it was in the mailbox. Why would they open it up? This was all over the news and local social media and we live in a small town. Their fingerprints are all over it and they pried it open, thus rendering it useless in the criminal case. Seems to me they know more than they are telling.

Doty said...

Dear Peter Thank you so much for responding directly!

Doty said...

Elf, File a FOIA request to try and get all the information you can re:Tracy. With the internet these days it is easy to then do some PI work on your own. Good Luck.

Dacea said...

Here is the story of Elf's friend. I'm from the SGF MO area. I hope you don't mind my sharing, Elf.

Tania Cadogan said...

Hi Paula i hope i was of some help. I have a long way to go yet, hopefully Peter and Heather will continue patiently teaching me and all the others who visit here that we understand the principals and apply them wisely.

Thanks for the update.

BallBounces said...

Peter -- off topic. Would it be possible for you to post the principles of statement analysis as a permanent link or entry on your blog? I want to reference your blog in a thesis I am writing. Barring that, could you point me to a blog entry in which you make the point about asking open-ended questions and letting the suspect answer in his own words? Thanks. RKB

elf said...

Thank you everyone for thinking of Tracy. And thank you for posting a link dacea :) I know we all keep our eyes open when we're out and about and I really appreciate you all taking the time to look at Tracy's case and picture. The odds are slim but Tracy may still be out there somewhere...

C5H11ONO said...

Sorry about being a little off topic:
"As far as the allegations of CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth," CIA Director John Brennan said today. "We wouldn't do that. That's just beyond the scope of reason."

Does this mean that as far as other allegations something could be closest to the truth?

We wouldn’t do that? – I suppose CIA director John Brennan is speaking for the entire CIA to state “we”, interestingly enough he did speak on future tense conditional “wouldn’t” do that.

Also stated
"I mean that’s, that’s, that’s just beyond the scope of reason…When the facts come out on this I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous spying, monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.”

That's, that's, that's, quite a stutterer.

Unknown said...

Hi elf my name is amber and i know Tracy and her family and i miss her i was 8years old when she went missing and i still hold her dear to my heart i never gave up hope on her..