Understanding Bias In Statement Analysis
by Peter Hyatt
"I just now got back from Washington, D.C. this weekend in which I'm engaging in doing Statement Analysis for the Central Intelligence Agency on an important statement from a terrorist. There was a statement in which no one in the country could analyze. After I successfully completed the analysis, and was handsomely paid, I was invited to dinner with the President, at the White House. Barry and I joked about how my analysis sometimes irritated him, but, sharing a cigarette on the balcony of the Roosevelt Room, out of the sight from nagging Shelly, we shook hands, as he could not help himself in praising my work. A good time was had by all. I'm no one important, however, as I am just an ordinary citizen doing what he loves to do but was there when needed by my country."
When you learn that I was in Maine all weekend, and my feet did not leave the snows of Maine, would you then be interested in anything I have to say about Statement Analysis, crime, or business?
Would you trust me?
Would you trust me with analysis?
Would you trust me with your family's well being?
Would you trust me with your business?
Would you trust me with your life?
Would you be willing to vote me into public office, and allow me to help make decisions that will impact your life, and the lives of your children?
I think you get the point.
In Statement Analysis,
a. The learning of principle
are all necessary to learn to discern truth from deception, and evaluate content for the Interview.
The learning of principle is like learning to play the chords of a guitar. The fingering is correct, but the sound isn't much to speak of. Years of practice are needed to get a nice sound. Yet, practice does not make perfect, but more closer to "practice makes permanent" so that something that is incorrectly embraced, and repeated, will become...
Humility (for some, "emotional intelligence") and strong self awareness are critical in the journey of learning. Simply, if you know it all, you need to learn nothing. If you fear being wrong, you will not be right.
Even those with strong intuitive talent in analysis may hit a wall by their own fear of being wrong. For example, in doing the work on an anonymous statement, the analyst must be willing to be continually changing his or her mind, not just sentence by sentence, but word by word. Here is how:
In anonymous work, one word or phrase may sound quite educated, while the next sounds uneducated. One phrase is most certainly used by females, while the next phrase distinctly sounds male. This can be maddening to be part of, but it is necessary if the author of the statement is to be known. We all leave our "fingerprints" on our statements, yet few can do the work of anonymous threats and anonymous letters. Pedantic lecturers may memorize principle, and even employ impressive vocabulary, in order to...impress listeners, yet the lack of humility will hinder growth, and lead to error.
Those unwilling emotionally, to accept the incomplete picture, will struggle. This is more discussed in "What Makes A Good Investigator."
Inevitably in working with others, someone will say to me, "How did I miss that?" of which it is just as likely that I will say, "Hey, don't feel badly about it. I missed it in my initial analysis, too."
There is a reason why I missed "it" in the shared statement. Before I get to "it", let's look at three basic reasons that cause us to "miss" the mark of truth in analysis. Those who "miss" do so, not because they have not learned to analyze, which is a different category. Without training, most people have 'dulled listening' before training. Yet even after training, without practice, the exciting seminar, with its shining examples, will fall to the way side, and the dulled listening will return.
Liars will succeed.
Within those, however, who have had training, and who have begun the road of rehearsal, this article is directed.
We miss things because:
1. Personal Bias
1. Personal Bias
This bias can be many things, but some specific categories include:
or simply...the bias of honesty projected on to the subject. This is where the honest person simply struggles to believe the subject could be lying and could, possibly, have "done this." This type of bias is the easiest to deal with and a bias that can actually help the investigative mind.
Subjective language bias.
Point: President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky produced samples for analysis which were useful in teaching. His "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky" opened up a strong and useful example for several principles to be applied at once. When someone responds with, "You know, if you need more statements, George W said..." is presented rather than commenting and learning from the original, may be due to the person's political affiliation has caused him to respond, seeing, not the example to be learned from, but seeing only partisan thought. The "reply" is understood as a diversion.
President Clinton's statement is useful, specifically, because it highlights the need for analysis as it is, itself, a reliable denial.
As our nation, and the nations of the world come to grips with violence in the Mohammedan religion (generic term for varying segments within Muslim, or Islamic beliefs), President Barak Obama used this technique recently, when he decidedly deflected away this topic in speaking to a prayer breakfast to note that crimes have "also" been committed in the name of Christianity. Rather than respond to Mohammedan violence, he brought in a new topic, in an attempt to not only "spread around guilt", but to divert attention away from the looming violence from religious belief, though thinly veiled. This is no different than the school boy who says to his mom, "Yeah, but everybody else was..." rather than deal with is own actions. In one swoop of the tongue:
Guilt is spread out;
Attention is moved away from the event that produced guilt.
Follow the language and note the need to divert.
Although mankind has long used ethics, morality or religion as a way to cover their intentions in war, and increase support, the religion of Mohammedanism presents a unique challenge as it is a static religion which not only oppresses women and openly opposes the existence of a nation (Israel) but it opposes art, literature, education (especially of women), architecture, and other cultural areas of advancement. Women are not its only targets. Islam is the only major religion in the world which has a principled and openly stated and written belief of conquering the world via violence. The imposition of Sharia Law, for example, at the expense of liberty and the degradation of women, has been imposed in some locales in Western Europe, as "diversity" and unchecked immigration combined to strengthen Mohammedan followers. It is so extreme in violence that in some towns in France, for example, the French people fear to even drive through the town and French courts no longer seek to exert the laws of France upon the inhabitants who have imposed religious law there. Is this even possible in the 21st century Europe? It has been only 70 years since Jews would almost exterminated from Europe, and now they are being forced to move out of France?
The White House "misled" the press about the Muslim Brotherhood meeting in the White House. When asked about the inappropriateness of the meeting, the spokesman answered, "no", without explanation.
My daughter wishes to be a criminal psychologist. She loves Statement Analysis, and wants to use psychology to catch criminals, but she is torn, as she also wants to help abused children overcome trauma. "Can I do both?" she has asked me several times. "Of course, you can. You can even minor in..." is my reply. She is an honor roll student and does not understand how Islamic influence can change her dreams just because she is female.
When a high school has a "girls wear a Muslim covering to school day", what of those who disagree? A Colorado high school issued a memo last month stating that they were enforcing Sharia approved garments for high school girls visiting a mosque in Denver on a field trip.
Are Islamic countries known to promote women in education? Or, did I miss something here?
What does this say to someone like my daughter who does, one day, want to be a mother, but also has career ambitions dear to her, when Islamic teaching subjugates women in varying ways, including by coercion?
One commentator sarcastically quipped that when the girls do not comply, will they will be hung?
The high school girls had to cover their heads and parts of their faces, but the boys did not, in order to go on the field trip...in an American city.
When one has an agenda, what is found within the words, and what is not found, (that is, what is expected but absent) may be due to bias. President Obama has, more and more since re-election, through his language, shown a bias towards Mohammedanism, including the employment of softer terms for terrorism, (even the dropping of words) and minimizing terms for activity. There are actions we can comment upon, such as the blaming of a video instead of acknowledging a planned violent attack, yet with a Statement Analysis blog, we focus upon the words instead.
President Obama's religious bias in words, regarding Islam, is seen in minimization, absence, and now of the employment of the tactic of diversion. We need to listen to what our leaders say.
Yet, what of our own selves? What of our view of what one has said? What about our own bias?
Bias, that is, personal bias, may cause us to miss linguistic indicators that otherwise reveal truth.
I experienced this many years ago the first time I heard John and Patsy Ramsey speak. In invoking the religion and family, this played upon my bias, or leanings, which coupled with my emotional (see #3) setting (my 6 year old, blond haired daughter was sitting on my lap as I watched this on the news), which caused me to miss signals of deception initially.
How could such 'nice' people have been involved in something so hideous? This was my instinctive reaction. I had to "step away" and read the transcripts instead of being impacted by the cute photo, the employment of religious language, and my own inability to picture something like this in my own home. This is another advantage of analyzing only words: we free ourselves from emotional bias, for example, that may be produced by tears.
These show examples of religious and/or personal bias which exists just as cultural bias might.
I have seen some investigators struggle with the lesson on Charlie Rogers, just as I have seen some struggle with the "None Nigger" from the Red Lobster. Hearing the word "Nigger" could cause some to either bristle with anger, or to shift uncomfortably and want to abbreviate it as "the N word" (when that is not what the subject wrote on the receipt). Statement Analysis gets to the truth. Statement Analysis doesn't "pass" on hot potatoes.
I have repeatedly said, if you conclude that Ms. Rogers was truthful because she was a lesbian, you are just as wrong as if you said that Ms. Rogers must be lying because she was a lesbian. Her language does not "care" either way; the pronouns, for example, guide us, without concern for what may unsettle the nerves of the oversensitive.
One more remark about Brian Williams being Irish and someone is going to lose his temper.
Statement Analysis does not see statistics from a moral perspective, no more than mathematics do, but sees things from a statistical perspective and looks at intent. If Brian Williams employs cultural Irish story-telling language (sometimes seen in present tense verbs), it will not hide his intent to deceive in language, no more than one who is incorrect is seen as a deceiver in analysis.
If you allow sexual, cultural, or religious bias to go unchecked, you will miss important information. You must be honest with yourself. Statement Analysis does not care what political party words belong to.
We all have bias. Success comes through self honesty, and through de-briefing with a trusted partner.
I implore investigators to not succumb to the jaded, "everyone is lying" mentality, which not only works against the lie detector (destroying the "expected versus the unexpected" set up) but will then miss the 90% factor of having confidence in the words used!
There is an element of "fatalism" which is passive and leads to more destruction. "Every politician lies" (this is usually a partisan response, however) and now, "every news broadcaster spins and tells tales" is as to say "Don't bother to analyze. Don't engage your intellect. Everyone is jaded and there is no good to come from discernment."
Please see my article on Montgomery County Prosecutor Rob Freyer and put yourself in the shoes of Robbie Middleton's family, if you believe that everyone lies, and no one seeks truth and justice and good in this world. This bias is the bias of fatalism that even the strongest of Calvinists do not adhere to.
Bias can be due to projection, as well.
If one has unresolved guilt towards an issue, for example, what will this mean in the analysis ? It might.
I was not raised by a step-father, yet there is something about cases in which a step father is violent triggers an emotion in me that I am unable to trace. It is powerful and has something to do with boyhood nightmares. When I had cases like those, I sought to either transfer them, if possible (rarely so) or to, in the very least, de-brief with someone who could see what, perhaps, I could not see. More on debriefing in analysis in a separate article.
Projection impacts others. In advanced training, I use a report written by an attorney who had the duty to investigate a nursing home.
I tell investigators, "Your report reveals you. Your fingerprints are all over it. A profile of you emerges from your written report, and Statement Analysis of your own writing will prove this to you."
This is most always met with disbelief.
I then hand them a copy of the report.
In it, she described the owner of the nursing home as "recently divorced", which, seemingly, was a 'negative' for the owner, while she described the complainant as "lovely", "engaging" and "lived in a well-manicured waterfront property."
That the owner was "recently divorced" was not part of the investigation of the complaint against the nursing home. It appears to be "utterly unimportant", which, now to the investigators who have had some training, "doubly important."
Would you be surprised to learn that the writer, who's written report impacted the lives of many, was reluctantly going through a divorce, behind on all her bills, and blistering in envy against those who had the financial wherewithal to buy a nice house?
The reading of this redacted report brings an audible shock to the audience.
Do the ignorant know they are ignorant?
Ignorance of the truth and willful ignorance are separate issues. Not knowing something is not a detriment to analysis while being unwilling to is.
Recently, I wrote about a phrase which was not expected, in my personal linguistic dictionary. Commentators here indicated that the phrase was a common phrase to firemen, and fire fighting. This was then verified by me and others. (me, first) I was grateful for the quick lesson in language and incorporated it into the analysis of Brian Williams in which I conclude that I do not believe he 'rescued a three week old puppy' from a fire. (The account was changed to "two puppies" later on) As some noted, there was little analysis, as I believe we are going to see much more serious cases of deception by him; deception within news stories that were taken as fact. Let's wait to see as media begins to dig out transcripts and recordings.
Ignorance of local trade phrases, for example, is a hinderance to getting to the truth, but only if you are closed minded.
As we analyze, left to right, and then top to bottom (context), we may ask, "What does the subject do for a living?" for this may impact his language.
A friend in the car business was fond of saying that when he met his wife, she was "low miles, garaged, one owner, and good suspension."
Flattery takes all sorts of forms.
Ignorance can be seen in the refusal to learn. Lacking humility is akin to ignorance. Is not the analyst willing to see, for example, that regionalism can enter language? What of racial impact upon language? What of those with mental illness? Does an adult with autism express himself the same way as one who does not suffer from its affliction?
These are not, however, excuses to dismiss analysis. Where one intends to communicate, understanding is presupposed. Where one intends to deceive, analysis can pick up deception. This is why I like to teach that principle is made up of strong molding clay, not fully hard, like cement, but pliable, yet not so pliable that it cannot stand.
This is the same as saying that we not only analyze a statement moving from left to right, but from top to bottom. Taken out of context, a statement can be perverted into most anything.
A recent example of this form of ignorance was when the media jumped on Lance Armstrong.
I have long written publicly that Lance was deceptive. (note my use of his first name: is this the language of familiarity, as if I am feigning close friendship? Out of context, this could be used in ignorance. It is, rather, that he is known by his first name, within media).
When he denied PEDs, I called it deceptive. When he 'mea culpa'd' on Oprah, I called it deceptive (in part). Yet, when he recently said that if he had to do it all over again, he would use.
This was portrayed as a shocking example of lack of remorse.
This was because the context (the top to bottom of a statement) was removed. In context he said that if it was the late 90's, he would have used because he could not have competed fairly without it, since everyone was using, but if he was competing today, he would not use. This was one of the few occasions where Mr. Armstrong (note the change?) told the truth.
Social Introductions in context.
We see that an incomplete social introduction within a statement is indicative of a poor relationship at that point in the statement.
The words "in that point in the statement" are critical. This is because the subject (writer) may be distancing himself from his wife, for example, at 9AM in the statement, as he recalls the day in question, while at 2PM, we see within his recollection, that things were better between them. At 9AM, he was committing a crime in which she protested, but after lunch, things had changed, in reality, therefore, as expressed in words.
We have seen this in how people speak to each other when a third party is present in the room, with the ability to change the language.
This is why we like context.
There are, however, examples where one is asked a plain question and all we have is a short statement in which analysis may be applied. Although the words are limited, the question was clear and the answer analyzed.
If one avoids answering a question, we can (and should) conclude that the question, itself, is 'sensitive' to the person.
The ignorance we experience can be a refusal to be open to correction; a death toll to anyone who thinks he has "arrived" and "knows it all."
I have listed this third, not for lack of priority, but for 'saving the biggest and best' for last. Sometimes priority does that.
This is where in working through a statement, it is easy to be 'grabbed' by the unexpected which seems to scream, "deception!" early on in a statement.
When this happens, it is very likely to be true. If you have kept a presupposition that the subject is truthful and are suddenly confronted with the unexpected, an opinion is formed. This is where practice and the wisdom from learning from mistakes is so very necessary:
Here is how to walk away.
It is a sign that you need to finish your "first round" of analysis, as you have now seen signals of deception.
You can do it again, before the "walk away" time period.
Let's review the three rounds of analysis in Part III
Analysis should be done in three basic rounds. (De-briefing, peer review, etc, comes after the three rounds of going over a statement).
1. The first round with the presupposition of innocence. By now, you should understand from other examples and articles, that you are to analyze the statement as if it is 100% truthful, and that the subject did not do it. You will see if the statement agrees with this presupposition. Then, if indicators of deception are present:
2. The second round is now down thinking that the subject "did it" and will now guide us how it is being done.
You now have a great deal of information and it is here where you need to break the emotional/mental connection with the findings of the statement; that is, with your conclusions or even just the opinions.
3. The third round is critical and should now be done with the emotional and intellectual break in connection to the statement. This is something personal to you, and may be impacted by your time frame, your personal constitution, activity level, health, strengths and challenges, and so on.
Vital: Intellectual and Emotional Separation from the Statement.
This is where you must find a diversion that impacts you. It must be something that engages the mind and the emotions. This will break the pattern set up in your brain regarding the statement. Once broken, it is here that you will suddenly "find" information that had been "missed" in the earlier two rounds of analysis.
You must break the emotional and intellectual connection with the statement in order to have success. When we are 'engaged' on both the intellectual (first) and emotional level, the connection is now moving in a "straight line", which is why you miss things. You have a scent, and are following it. The scent has also made sense to you, and built your confidence. This is what causes blindness to there "scents" within the statement.
You are in the position of investigating what happened within a statement. It matters not if you are an investigator, a journalist, a therapist, or a mother, fretting over her teenager's story. You are "on the hunt" and as predator, your "prey" is the truth.
When you discern deception, you have successfully picked up the scent and followed it to its conclusion.
Herein lies the problem: there are other scents for you to follow but you cannot because you are "locked on" to the one pattern (scent) of the statement.
It is only once you have "cleaned the pallet" of the prey that you can now follow a "new" prey, or "new scent", or a "new track" found within the same statement.
It is important that you now note:
Yes, he has been deceptive but this is not the end. There is to be learned:
How he did it.
Why he did it.
And when this is finished, we must then go back and learn if there is even more information awaiting us.
Chances are very likely that there is.
Profiling has become a "negative" word in our language, yet we do it all the time, whether we admit it or not.
When you walk down the proverbial alley at night and see a shadow of a man, and your heart picks up pace, sending more blood to your legs for flight, and your pupils enlarge, allowing for better night vision, and piloerection makes your hair on your neck stand up, blood moves away from your vital organs, to protect you against assault, etc; this physiological reaction is suddenly reversed when you perceive the man wearing the uniform of a police officer. Your "profile" is that the dark uniform represents safety, even though you do not know if the man is masquerading as a police officer, or is a dangerous officer, or is someone to help you in time of danger. Even while denying profiling, your body does it, just the same, as the brain processes information quickly. Your brain cares little for political correctness when it senses danger.
A profile of a liar becomes essential for not only investigators, but for business professionals. They know that the liar may steal from them, ruin their reputation, file false complaints against them, and do more damage than imagined. This profile can protect the company, even if it just means keeping a closer eye on the employee, just as this profile can help the criminal or civil investigator who now can use it in the interview process, appropriating the specifically worded questions that best elicit responses.
The small tactical information is used within an overall strategy.
The third round is where I seek to learn the personality of the subject. I have already been through enough to know what has happened.
Q. How long does this process take?
A. Given the average statement of one and one-half 8.5 x 11" paper, a thorough analysis generally takes me 6 hours, excluding "breaking off" the intellectual and emotional trail, period of time.
Given the nature of "catching the liar" as prey, the stronger the emotional satisfaction from discerning deception, the greater the need for breaking the connection with the scent. Emotion has a tendency to influence one more than intellect. We pick up the "scent" of the liar, that is, the verbal indications that the language reveals, and follow that specific scent. This will, inevitably, cause us to miss information initially.
A break period is needed and two elements must be present during the break to obtain success of entering into a statement in the hopes of yielding up to 40% more information.
Here are some personal hints for getting oneself off the intellectual and emotional scent of a statement for the third round of analysis that I use, or that I have heard others use. Some are written in the positive, and others are things I have tried, but not found successful.
Playing a chess game means putting intellectual effort into the game or tactics training. No partner needed as online computers are free, including for solving chess puzzles. I do 30 minutes of Tactics Training online, each day. If you have a game or hobby that necessitates concentration, it should work for you.
2. Statement Analysis of another statement.
I do use this, but only when I am overrun with requests for analysis, or face deadlines. It does help, however but it is not something I recommend as it can tire the brain out before facing round three.
3. De-briefing with someone is critical for clearing the brain. The person you debrief with should be, in the least, familiar with analysis techniques and with the case. This person will not likely have the same emotional connection with the statement you have, and may ask you questions that you cannot answer. This is perfect.
Once you've gone past a certain point in analysis, you'll never hear people speak the same way again. The same is true for reading, especially something with statements or quotes. I always keep a biography nearby and love to read about peoples' lives. I find that any life lived is worth reading about if the writing is engaging. I am re-reading "The Life and Letters of Robert E. Lee" (a must read) but was recently recommended to read the life of John Wayne. Although I am not a fan of actors in general, I respected the recommender enough to get the book and it is engaging.
The key is to be engaged on an intellectual and emotional level by the book. Biographies not only do the trick, but also teach us about people and how they think. I find this not only interesting, but useful. Find something that grabs you. With biographies, you can read them in short intervals, especially those that are predominantly chronological in nature (rather than focusing mostly on a specific period of one's life) where they begin in childhood and work their way unto death.
One summer, I spent the entire time reading almost nothing but the writings of women during the War Between the States. These were in the forms, mostly, of diaries, and were distinctly from the perspective of women and I was able to "enter into" their sufferings, deprivations and even their hopes. I was so touched by the material that I can recall the emotional tie to suffering at will.
Although I am also "reading" Avizoam Sapir's book on Genesis, this is not so much reading as study, with blue highlighter. It feels too closetowhat I am doing to break the connection and is tiring for my limited intellect.
5. What about exercising?
Exercise: exercise is always good for the brain, but I do not find that it engages my mind enough to break the connection with the statement. Exercise is essential to the analyst simply because exercise is essential for brain strength. Unless the exercise has a heavy level of concentration, it may not be enough to break the connection. I walk every day, and go into my basement, pick up heavy things and put them down again, but it is not useful in breaking the connection.
If I walk with Heather or the kids, the conversation during the walk, does the job of disengaging me from the statement.
Of course, having to conduct other interviews, depending upon your job requirements, will usually be enough to break the connection for you.
It is something personal that each of us has to discover. One analyst makes himself a drink, and listens to music. I do not find that this is helpful as it causes me to actually concentrate, in a relaxed manner, more so on the statement.
You know yourself best and know what engages you. The key is the engagement must be of an element that touches you emotionally. This is the change needed to cause you to have fresh eyes over a statement.
Next up.....Part Three