Many experts, in spite of selling books, acknowledge that dabbling in lie detection leads to a specific negative result:
Those without formal training will see deception where it does not exist.
In various tests, as well as trainings (which have had both new investigators and seasoned veterans of investigations) I have found it to be so with the majority of any given class "seeing" deception where they should have seen the connection of experiential memory. There were two years of seminars held where a minimum of a 4 year college degree was required. The results were the same.
What causes this?
Formal training means expansion into the more difficult areas that are not easily explained in a book, or without question and answer present even though many fine books can anticipate questions. None, however, answer them all, as human nature is simply too diverse.
Volume --the more exposure to the wide variety found within statements, the broader the understanding. This must be then repeated often. Even the best formal training will fail without application and rehearsal. This is where patrol officers and human resource professionals have the advantage: lots of on the fly interviewing.
Combatting cynicism and person prejudice.
This is where investigators dig in their heels due to an emotional connection. I found that, experientially, female investigators struggled with favorite music or movie stars who lied, while males struggled with sports stars who lied. Interestingly enough, in trainings, I have not found much prejudice in political statements, as it seemed rarely did anyone so admire a politician that they resisted training.
In the general public, however, it is very high and comments show the underlining anger, even when attempting to stifle or masquerade it, but I have not found this much in actual seminars. The few times it showed itself, it was transparent and it led to "compete shutdown" of the attendee. One was so acute, that she was unable to complete the course and did not receive certification which her company required. She literally attempted to reverse principle to fit her agenda. In a meeting with her superiors later, I expressed concerns about any accused who does not agree with her politically is not likely to be given a fair investigation (civil). I refused to sign off, so they contacted my superior who had been present for a short time in the seminar. She refused to overrule my refusal. The attendee was a non practicing attorney and her repeated quotes of a law dictionary led one investigator to finally say, "Hey, we get it. You're an attorney. Can we move on here?"
She was very intelligent, but terribly frustrated in her career and this came out in the seminar each time she raised her hand.
She projected that which was bothering her. We all do it . We all give ourselves away. Yet, we must possess the self awareness that allows us to face it, and counter it.
An investigator wrote:
"The subject, recently divorced, was belligerent throughout the interview, while the accused met with me at her home, well maintained on the waterfront, and was willing to answer all questions posed to her..."
What did this tell you about the investigator? Yes, she was going through a divorce and fumed at the destruction of her finances and hated the house she was stuck in.
Extremely intelligent, she lacked self awareness and could not be trusted in an investigation. She would find lies in low economic subjects and veracity in high economic subjects. Training made her worse.
Unless we have enough self awareness that can be verified through other professionals, we may do more damage than good, and we only discredit the science by our own sloppy handling.
What's on the line?
When you are deciding if something is truthful or deceptive, what are the consequences of your opinion?
Did you like leaving your name on your analysis?
It is much easier to do so anonymously. When even considering lie detection, we ask, What does the person "have on the line", so to speak?
This is often said about the polygraph practice: the liar is not nervous, as he or she is just practicing, therefore will not have the reaction.
How would it impact your work if you had something on the line?
What if your opinion meant:
your company's reputation?
your department's reputation?
a legal decision?
What if you so believed in analysis, but your co workers did not? This is something that is common. One person in a department or company becomes absolutely hooked on analysis, utterly fascinated at its accuracy, only to be met by skepticism of others.
For us, healthy scientific skepticism is our best friend.
It helps us sharpen our work, avoid foolish guess work, and since our work impacts lives, it should withstand high scrutiny.
In one training years ago, I went through a series of sentences, rather quickly, asking the class of about 25 attendees, "deceptive or reliable"? to rather mixed results...at first.
A pattern emerged.
I switched over to only reliable sentences.
An investigator, seated in the front row, raised her hand, and instead of allowing herself to be counted silently, as was what had been happening for a few minutes, she said, "deceptive!"
I pulled out another reliable sentence.
It reached a point where the class laughed as she was the only one 'voting' that the sentence showed deception, and did so emphatically.
She clearly enjoyed her status as contrarian.
I thought, "I feel sorry for the wrongfully accused that meets her."
Some in the class had all the requisite books you might expect and more than a few were familiar with my blog and were constantly seeing "deception" where no deception existed. This is what some experts say:
read a few books and you'll see liars everywhere even though less than 10% of deception is from outright lying.
These are those who often find statistics where people "lie" 27 times every hour.
When we have a written statement, we believe what one tells us unless they give us reason not to.
When a statement tests "unreliable" in its form, it is likely to contain truth.
*Many deceptive statements are 100% truthful, word by word, and sentence by sentence.
The reality is this: even when a subject "did it", it is very likely that his statement has an abundance of reliable material, and that it is only that he has withheld the fact that he 'did it' in his statement or interview.