Sunday, May 17, 2015
"Missing Information and Reliability" by Peter Hyatt
Missing Information and Reliability
by Peter Hyatt
Missing information is a signal that the information included is highly reliable.
When an investigator notes that there are signals of "missing information" in a statement, he often concludes that deception is indicated.
This very well may be true; the information withheld is done so deliberately, hence, the linguistic signals.
Yet, in order to conceal information, one must be working from memory, making the information that is included likely to be very reliable, as it came from memory.
This is why dismissing a "liar" is to miss content, just as the conclusion that a particular statement is "deceptive", although correct, the dismissing of the information offered is to miss out on the structure and even major points within a truthful account.
Remember: most deception is, indeed, through missing information.
"Tell me what you did today."
Subject: "Well, let's see. I woke up, took a shower, and got dressed. I had coffee, and went to work."
1. "Well, let's see" indicates the subject is pausing to consider his words.
2. "I woke up" uses the strong formula of the Pronoun "I"and the past tense verb, "woke up" making it very reliable. "I had coffee" also follows the formula of strength.
How much time passed between "got dressed" and "I had coffee"?
Was it 5 minutes?
Was it 15 minutes?
Was it an hour? Two hours?
In other words, the subject has left out information because it is impossible for anyone to tell us anything.
Information is missing, but the "missing information" has not linguistic signal of missing information.
Let's view the same sentence with an indication of missing information.
"Well, let's see. I woke up, took a shower, and got dressed. Then, I had coffee, and went to work."
This statement now gives us a linguistic signal of missing information.
You may recall that the word, "Then" is a space or passing over of time ("temporal lacunae") which indicates:
This person is thinking of the time period between getting dressed and having coffee.
It is a signal for the investigator to explore, via questions, what happened in this time period. There is also the inclusion of the word "coffee", which, although many of us have coffee in the morning (I am almost to the point where I cannot start my day without it), but few feel the need to mention it in their statements unless...
unless there is something more important about "coffee" than just the need I referenced about myself. In fact, "coffee", when included in a statement, is often an indicator that someone else may have been present at this point in the story and that the conversation that took place between the subject and this person may be important. This is explored in the interview. If the conversation is not important, the person's presence likely is. This is to conclude that the subject had a reason to mention "coffee", which is often a 'social drink' (people go out for 'coffee') and tea drinkers are not known to include, "I got up, had tea and went to work" in their statements.
The word "Then" shows that the 2nd subject (second statement) has paused in his chronological order and this pause is due to something that happened, was said, or was thought, at this point.
It could be anything, including:
a. an important conversation
b. the subject received an important phone call
c. the subject met with someone
d. the subject may have even left the home, had coffee elsewhere, with someone important
e. the subject opened his mail and found something very important
In other words, something of significance has taken place to cause the subject to 'pause' in his progression of his account and this pause, itself, tells the investigator that the investigator, too, should pause, to learn why.
Yet it is that in order to conceal information, which is deliberate, this cannot be done unless the subject is working from memory, making the rest of the statement highly reliable.
We then may conclude that, yes, we know the subject is deceptive in a statement which contains enough of these signals, yet, that information which remains is going to help us build up enough pieces of a puzzle to learn what happened, and once the missing information is discovered, the entire statement will make sense to us.