Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dealing With Our Own Bias in Analysis

                           Dealing With Bias
                                                                          by Peter Hyatt

Bias is not contamination, but our own prejudices, which always exist, and must be countered in our work.  I often cite that  police score very low (under 50% by some accounts; the guess level) simply because they think everyone is lying!

Contamination is what is found within a statement when an interviewer's words and knowledge is cited; bias is something within us, as we seek truth.  

We all have it. 

Professionals deal with it. 

Those of a most suspicious nature are much more difficult to teach than the "polly anna" type who thinks human nature is roses and everyone is truthful.  They have a better "expected" and are often highly "confronted" by the "unexpected" and readily discern the deception.  The suspicious nature simply holds that everyone is a liar, a hypocrite and that no one has any real nobility in life; it is all a pragmatic show to get what one wants.

Being mistreated in life can lead to trauma and depending upon age and impact, it can color a person where there is no trust of anyone.  This is challenging, but not impossible, to counter. 

When one is so jaded, from trauma or from employment, and works in analysis, there is even a greater need for remedy, especially where there is natural talent. 

They absolutely nail deception indicated and can ride this until they make their first blunder, and falsely accuse someone and then, depending upon profession, analysis and trust go down the drain.  I keep several sample statements of actual sexual assaults at the ready just for this purpose:

The statements are simple but two people will fail:

1.  The untrained
2.  The suspicious by nature

The untrained fail because of the complexity of competing principles of analysis.  This takes discipline and experience and the lack of not just formal training, but the lack of in depth training will betray them.  This is why I use short, and somewhat simple statements to open the eyes and make them consider that 'something is missing.'

The UK did a study, years ago, and found this very thing.  (see the blog entry for detail) Although the study had much error, it did highlight that a two day seminar will not have long term changes in results; only those that go on in training, and the necessary peer review, can build off of the two day training.  In this realm, the UK study misses the value of the training.  By throwing investigators with, literally, less than 20 hours of training, into a study, the results were predictable.

There is hope, though it 'don't come easy.'
There are two specific remedies to apply to the cause of analysts with heavy suspicion naturally.

Police, on patrol in many places in America, become jaded due to seeing an aspect of human nature every day, every hour, every week...

I liken it to the following. Here I attempt to paint an emotional portrait for you to enter and understand how the way you think and feel, may not be how others do.  

Consider you, as a mother or father and your child is three years old, or close to it.

Are you with me?

Are you picturing that wonderfully adorable age of just you and your child?

Now, picture a stranger with a brief case, with a police officer, entering into your home and saying, "your child is coming with me."

Have I got your blood boiling now?

The first time I was involved in this scenario, I was terrified of the damage I was going to do to a child.

My first time?

The 3 year old lifted her hand to hold mine and walked to the door.  I said, "Wanna say 'goodbye' to Mommy?"

She nodded 'no' and walked out.

Then there was the next one.

4 or 5 year old and the same reaction.

Then the next, and the next and then there were those that did show emotion about leaving with a big smiling saying, "Can we stop and get a Happy Meal?"

My fears over damage to the child were due to my projection.  The fears I did not have; namely, for my own safety, were just as unfounded as I was attacked, and even injured, by parents and young grandparents.

After several years of this, all day, all week, and all year, in an incredibly difficult pace, which included interviews, transcripts and psych eval results to compare to the language, I had to stop myself from seeing child abusers everywhere. 

Once, a young woman who had been raped in childhood said to me, "I can tell what they look like by their eyes. They have really small beady eyes."

I immediately widened my eyes and said, "Oh, really?" while removing my glasses.

When I tell this story, I make the same wide eyed look on my face, often removing my glasses.
It tears up the audience, but it is a true story.  When I did this to the woman, she burst out laughing and over the next few years, those she did say were sexual deviants did prove her accuracy. (It wasn't beady eyes, however).

In analysis, I have not wrongly accused a subject of molesting a child and have used the written statement to prove the innocence of several, all of which led to retractions by children, all of whom were coached by an embittered parent in some form of custodial battle. 

 The only exception to custodial battle was a larcenous parent who borrowed $1,000 from a neighbor and did not want to repay it, so she coached her daughter into making a false claim of sexual abuse.  It was cruel and could have destroyed an innocent life.  This was understood by both the mother and the child, who was in high school.

How is this overcome?

How might a patrol officer, who, in general, deals with 'panic liars' all day long, actually adapt himself to a position of letting a subject guide him?

How does an analyst who is suspicious by nature, actually cope?  Over the years, I find this far more challenging for females than males, if the source is trauma, rather than career.

When one in patrol studies Statement Analysis, he advances himself to a position that may lead to promotion as a detective.  This, sometimes, is all that is needed to begin to lessen the impact of the daily and hourly interaction with liars.  Instead, he is now still dealing with liars, but from a technical point, rather than incessant interaction.  Do not underestimate the change of environment.

For both male and female, trauma from deception is far and away, the most difficult to overcome and for some, it is impossible.

who has the best odds?

Interestingly enough, it may be that Statement Analysis, itself, will provide the best medicine, or, at least the first level of healing or mitigating the trouble.

Being lied to hurts.  It presupposes us as those held in contempt; incapable of discerning the lies of the assailant.

Yet, some trauma is so severe that trust in humans is either difficult at best, or in some cases, a valuable element of life that is lost.

Hence, we flag "pets" in Statements, as "people", as there are those so severely hurt that they dislike humans and prefer pets.  You can search this blog for more on 'pets' in analysis for further understanding.

There are those who have developed anti-social personalities due to trauma, and are labeled as such, whether it is clinically, or socially, where they are called "toxic people" or "contrarians, trouble makers and pain in the @*&^" among other words.

Socially, they are avoided and this is something covered in some depth in the Advance Statement Analysis course.  Interestingly enough, an entire chapter is dedicated to the interviewing technique when 'coffee' is mentioned (the 'social drink') while the subject is actually alone.  Although this can be found in the language of widows, for example, this use is rarer than in more difficult and deeper profiling cases.

The trauma does not have to be from childhood to be this severe, or acute.  I  posted questions for research purposes on romantic trauma issues, which was helpful.

The one studying analysis will inevitably face self analysis as he or she continues to study what emotion produces language and this leads to an excellent opportunity for personal growth. 

The one is able to study his own bias, yes, but his own projection as well, which will help greatly in coping with it. 

Those that see only the ugly are prone to the same error as those who only see the good.  Yet is is the projected innocence that is actually easier to train.  

When the student has put in the necessary years to be an analyst professionally, the exception of "Deception or Veracity" is 100% with the only error being contamination. 

The unchecked bias will not only prohibit having a 100% record, but  with the first "deception indicated" of an innocent subject, and the analyst's services will not be needed. 

Thus, the necessity of not only professional training, but ongoing training and peer review, with mentoring the issue of either seeing guilt everywhere or seeing innocence everywhere.  

The self awareness, intelligence and strong mentoring will get the dedicated professional successfully through this troublesome time that most successful analysts go through. 

Reading the Statement Analysis blog is to read about Statement Analysis.  It is not study of analysis.  

It is basic, it is interesting, and it is rudimentary, but as far as learning, it is "about" analysis; it is not analysis. 

When enrolled in training, even in the first weeks, the investigator learns to stop the subject, hand him paper and pen, and take a statement. 

He then gets immediate, live assistance, at times, even while the subject waits to be interviewed, and here is the result:

The investigator goes into the interview knowing the truth.  Consider the confidence this exudes in the interview room!  

It unnerves the guilty.  

Not only does he sense the confidence of the interviewer, he is now feeling the emotional pressure to confess. 

Bias exists and is inescapable.  The bias we hold is natural and requires both self examination and external processing, lest we err within analysis. 

This is key:  when profiling comes before principle, serious error is inevitable as the conclusive and the suggestive mix. 

When we sense a personality within a statement, we must do what we can to limit this opinion, which is why we study principle so much so, that at any time, we must buttress our opinion.  Once we begin to say "because it feels..." when challenged as to "why?" we are already in trouble.  

This adds to training the single element missing in so many others:



John Mc Gowan said...

My apologies for an immediate OT:

Mother accused of poisoning son with salt speaks out to “48 Hours”

A mother comes under suspicion when her sick son is found to have lethal salt levels in his system. When he dies, she’s accused of poisoning him on purpose – but in her only interview, she tells “48 Hours” all she did was try to help the boy. Troy Roberts previews Saturday’s all-new “48 Hours” on “CBS This Morning.”

@2:30 Lacey Spears Garnetts mother issues these denials. I understand that this is a small part of her interview, and therefore there maybe some contamination and she may have issued an RD about the salt later or before these quotes.

Lacey Spears:

"I didn't kill my son" "I never poisoned him with salt"

Noted first is a "reliable denial" "I didn't kill my son"
Second. When issuing a denial regarding poisoning her son with "salt" "I never poisoned him with salt," her denial is no longer reliable as the word "didn't" is switched to "never" making it unreliable.


Is it possible that she believes she "didn't kill" her son, and that it was the high levels of sodium (salt) that killed him. Which is shown in her first denial (RD)?. But, can not issue an RD in regards to directly poisoning him with "salt"?

I hope that's not confusing and i have it right? Lol

Lis said...

There is another type of person who tends to think everyone is lying regardless of any signs or signals in the language or behavior and that is habitual liars. To the liar, everyone is a liar. I would think it would be impossible for a habitual liar to learn statement analysis?

I had to deal with a habitual liar as a parent and that presented a lot of betrayal but hope springs eternal and I think the average person tends to be fairly truthful, aside from the social falsehoods we all take part in. But boy, turn on the TV or listen to politicians or read the news and the percentage of liars to honest people sure goes up!

Lis said...

John, "I never poisoned him with salt" makes me wonder if she poisoned him with something else.

Hey Jude said...
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Statement Analysis Blog said...

Here is an example of bias:

The swede projects their belief upon the Romas and they are wrong:

Statement Analysis Blog said...


also consider that 90% plus deception is via missing information meaning that if you avoid interpretation, you can gain lots of information.

If you have the fabricator of reality, you can pretty much consider that most everything is a lie, and will actually succeed by not listening; not getting sucked in to the lies.

Listen to what addicts deep into recovery (post 5 years) say about truth and lying. They own their lies and are dedicated to truth, in order to maintain their sobriety. Fascinating for those of us who listen.

Hey Jude said...
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Anonymous said...

Hey Jude said...
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Nic said...

The one studying analysis will inevitably face self analysis

I can relate. I'm a latch-key kid and was left to my own accord at a very early age (including being shipped off for summer months with little communication from my parents). I had a dentist appointment yesterday and it finally dawned on me why I hate going so much. Every time they light up my x-rays they can read into them what they will.

Anonymous said...

I wish we were all willing to accept our biases color our perceptions. It's healthy, leads to self-growth and would make the world a nicer place to be. I think ego (is it the super-ego?) plays a big part in preventing, halting or even stopping people from OWNING their biases. I'm aware of my own biases (and aware that I'm not aware of them all) and yet there are times when I have spoken or reacted from ego, probably a lot of times actually. I'm rambling now. Anyway,good talk!
Thanks for another thought-provoking lesson.

Hey Jude said...
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Tania Cadogan said...

"I didn't kill my son" "I never poisoned him with salt"

I agree John.

"I didn't kill my son"
She was a sufferer of Münchhausen by proxy.
To her way of thinking, she did not kill her son.
He died because he could not survive the ongoing damage she was putting him through.
He died because the medical staff could not or did not save him.
In her mind killing him would be the antithesis of everything she wanted.
She needed attention.
She needed sympathy.
With him alive she was getting what she wanted.
Without him being so sick, she would be nothing, she would be inconsequential.
Her whole life, her entire being was reliant on him being severely sick.
She got sympathy from readers of her blog, maybe even donations and freebies.
Killing him was never her intention.
With Münchhausen, they never intend to kill their child, they just want them sick enough to keep needing treatments and for the mom to get the emotional fix she desires.
She didn't set out to kill her son, she didn't deliberately do an action that would kill him.
She didn't kill him.
He died due to other reasons.
If you were to point out her actions killed him, she would deny it.
To her, killing is a deliberate act, a deed done with malice aforethought.
It is something premeditated.
His death was not part of her plan, it was not even a consideration, a possibility.
Each and every time, he survived, he pulled through, he recovered to some degree.
This time it was to have been no different.
In her mind, her way of thinking, he died to get back at her, to get her into trouble.
If he had been complaining about all the days and weeks in hospital, all the procedures, he was ungrateful, people were starting to ask awkward questions as to why things weren't being found and what was found should never have been there, she would blame him, anyone except herself.
She was doing everything for him, she should be appreciated for being such a good mom, saintly even.

"I never poisoned him with salt"
Never does not mean did not
As you point out, did she poison him with something else at some point?
Maybe to her a poison is something toxic like cyanide, strychnine, arsenic, maybe even drugs such as heroin or cocaine, even things like bleach, antifreeze.
Those are well known poisons.
Salt is a food, a flavor enhancer, a seasoning, a condiment.
Salt isn't a poison.
She would never have poisoned him with a known poison.
Her intent was not to poison him to death, perhaps not even to poison him at all.
Her intent was to make him feel sick, perhaps to exacerbate some other minor health issue.
When you want to make someone sick you make them drink a salty solution.
What is her definition of salt?
Table salt, saline, rock salt, a chemical salt even.

I wonder if at some point she will try to harm herself to get the attention and sympathy that drives her.
She may not have access to anyone else so her only recourse is to do it to herself.

My concern is that given the chance and time, she would be in thrall to her psychosis and a danger to herself and to others.

I don't think it is curable, it can at best be controlled by medication and therapy.
There is also the chance that should she recover enough to understand the result of her actions, that she caused the death of her son either accidentally or deliberately, it could be too much for her to bear, resulting in self harm.

I wonder what causes Münchhausen by proxy?
Is it a fault somewhere in the genes?
is it something from the way the person was raised?
Is it the result of something happening to them or a loved one?

Hey Jude said...
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Hey Jude said...
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John Mc Gowan said...


UWPD: 3 attackers hold down woman, sexually assault her near Memorial Union

Campus police are investigating a sexual assault reported on campus Friday night, according to a news release.

University of Wisconsin-Madison police said a first-degree sexual assault was reported near the Memorial Union late Friday. The victim told police that sometime between 10 p.m. and 10:40 p.m., three unknown men held her down against her will with a knife and sexually assaulted her.

The victim was unable to provide a detailed description of the suspects, according to the report.

UWPD is investigating the assault and asked anyone with information related to the incident to contact the department at 608-264-2677

Statement Analysis Blog said...

Who would have guess, going back only 7 or 8 years, that today, politicians would be shouted down and unable to be heard due to violence and the threat of violence, rather than being heard.

Anyone over a certain age would immediately think of Fascism as for barbaric and belligerent nations; not for us.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed your piece on "bias". I found it very thought provoking, it makes me look at everything in a slightly different light. Especially reflecting on my own biases. Looking at fact, opinion and bias opens up entire avenues of inquiry. Knowing that we all have our own unique set of biases that are with us all the time, consciously or not, can influence many aspect of our lives - where we decide to live, the friends we make, the jobs we take. Our biases are integral parts of our personalities. There are so many variables to consider when you start to think of bias. As you mentioned in the article is a bias "trauma" related or formed from cultural or work experiences. It makes me wonder how many people are aware of their biases and how they affect different situations? Do people view "bias" as a negative, positive or neutral aspect? Bias has levels of complexity involved that should be part of our general education and in some professions, like yours, should be required continuing education and peer review.

You talked about several statements on sexual assault that you keep handy for dealing with bias in your profession. What other exercises or examples would you recommend for hobbyists or students who don't have the experience you have to keep bias in check?

ima.grandma said...

Fascism argues a fearful logic without thought, an unthinking logic.

Historical pride and hatred masquerades as a reason to avenge; as pride is useless without violence. It is a logic that enables perpetrators to play victim. It’s logically inconsistent.

Last month I read about a man (no doubt his proudest patriotic moment) who boasted he enjoyed hitting a protester because he was “not acting like an American”. I've seen this conflict played out before with Vietnam - "love it or leave it" - Many so called "patriots" used this sentiment as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

Fascist politics is easily recognized by its deliberate perversion of truth and assault on fact. Its method is to poison the channels of public information, blur "political correctnes" and terrorize political speech. The problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving more money or more power with the promise of paradise.

To be a politician with integrity means having to say things people don't want to hear. It takes more than knowledge to be an effective leader. It takes moral courage to speak truth. Since moral courage is in shorter supply than logic, we're in trouble.

ima.grandma said...

The last few weeks, I've attempted to inventory some of my values and experiences by creating a personal bias statement. I thought the exercise would help me recognize that life is filled with diverse multiple values. In trying to understand and respect the values and interest of others in light of my own values, hopefully I will become a more compassionate and effective teacher of life to my grandchildren. I've discovered the goal isn't to remove and overcome all bias. It's to become motivated and disciplined in favor of the truth.

snip: Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaborative network of researchers investigating implicit social cognition - thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. Project Implicit is the product of a team of scientists whose research produced new ways of understanding attitudes, stereotypes and other hidden biases that influence perception, judgment, and action.

I highly recommend this site. I've taken most of the assessment and was surprised by the feedback on a few. It's free, interesting, simple and fun while learning about yourself. Click the participate button. I've listed some of the categories.

Disability 'Disabled - Abled' 
Native American 'Native - White American' 
Race 'Black - White' 
Gender - Career
Sexuality 'Gay - Straight'
'Weapons - Harmless Objects' 
'Asian - European American' 
Skin-tone 'Light Skin - Dark Skin' 
'Arab Muslim - Other People' 
Gender - Science
'Presidential Popularity' 
Weight 'Fat - Thin' 
Age 'Young - Old' 

Hey Jude said...

Ima.grandma - there's an 'Overcoming Bias' - lesswrongwiki - with lots of interesting stuff on it, too - I discovered it this evening but haven't explored it enough to know if it is worth recommending yet. I can't load the demo quiz on the site you have linked - hoping it will work for me tomorrow.

ima.grandma said...

Hi Juliet, try this link. It's a shortcut to at least four tests. Click one of the blue links at the bottom. I had a little difficulty at first on the original site but once I got in, it detected I was on a tablet device and all fell into place after that.

I'll check out your site tomorrow after the gkids are off for school. It looks promising and positive. Thanks. I hope all is well with you. :)

Lis said...

Very interesting, Peter. Objectivity is such a huge part of truth. It is so common for people to read into others their own thoughts or values and never know how wrong they are.

It is so much easier to get into a situation such as the Swedes have with the Roma than to get out of it!

Lis said...

Tania, or maybe baking soda as opposed to salt.

I have been told that those with Munchhausen's may move on to animals when they no longer have a child to use- some become involved with animal rescue but use the mute animals as they did their child, to project a saintly savior image and get attention.

I believe so many of these things begin with a lack of nurturing and love in infancy and childhood. :-(

Anonymous said...

Tania, spot on with your SA of the MSBP Mom. Everything you said hit the nail right on the head.
You are correct, she felt he should be able to withstand what she was doing to him. And if his body gave out, or doctor failed to save him, it wasn't her fault.

You asked

I wonder what causes Münchhausen by proxy?
Is it a fault somewhere in the genes?
is it something from the way the person was raised?
Is it the result of something happening to them or a loved one?

There are different degrees of MSBP (none of them good) however, once we're looking at the level of the salt poisoning mother, you are dealing with a narcissistic psychopath.
The salt poisoning mother does not have a conscience. She is aware she is lying and is delighting in the lie. She may also be a sadist. She is also highly narcissistic/borderline where, as you pointed out, she will feel inconsequential without the sick child.

My personal belief is that the perpetrators in these more severe cases do not differ much from serial killers. Not all psychopaths are viciously violent. Not all narcissists need a sick child to feel "important". You're looking at a weave of serious psychological problems/personality disorders, and the MSBP Mom resembles the serial killer in that they are victimizing/humiliating a helpless individual to try to gain some type of feeling of "dominance". These individuals are in touch with reality and know true from false, but as you aptly pointed out, they feel justified in a very immature type of way, in "bending" reality to suit them. If someone suspected the salt mother of giving her son salt, I bet she would have said "they're just saying that because they don't like me". These are people are extremely sick in the head. Oftentimes they may have had a parent with MSBP but I think ultimately, it is the desire to inflict pain/injury onto a helpless individual gives them a "fleeting" feeling of dominance and mastery (very similar to a serial killer). IN other words, they are not merely imitating a behavior they learned in their environment, they are driven by very sick urges and lack a conscience, therefore you have the "perfect storm".

Anonymous said...

Also, in the literature on MSBP, some researchers believe one element of the MSBP Mom's psyche is "paranoid projection" onto the victimized child which I also do believe to be true. Kind of like how someone on here pointed out that the habitual liar believes everyone to be a liar, MSBP victimizers project their own evil onto the child, believing the child to be "evil", and they use this highly pathological belief about the child to justify their attacks on the child. I believe these MSBP Mom's also believe that other people in general are as evil as they are also, although they believe themselves to be more "clever" than other people.
These individual are very sick in the head. In fact, the salt mother probably believes that her child was "evil" for dying, for not withstanding her salt torture. In other words, the child did something wrong when he died from her poisoning him, not her, she did nothing wrong, she didn't kill him. All I can say is, these types should not be allowed anywhere around children or animals, and they cannot be rehabilitated.

Anonymous said...

I should mention I was actually "raised" by an animal who calls herself a "mother" who has severe MSBP. I can assure you these individuals are the lowest form of life and expect their unlucky offspring to be good little torture victims. I can tell you from experience they are sadists, they are highly skilled liars, they feel no guilt even regarding leaving permanent physical injury on their victims. Reading, music, and escaping the house as much as possible is what saved me psychologically. These individuals do not deserve sympathy unless we want to start giving serial killers sympathy as MSBP "Moms" are worse than serial killers as they attack their own offspring, torture them for as long as they can get away with, and do not ever admit to what they have done even when caught red-headed. They should be locked away from society because they are incalcuably dangerous individuals who have absolutely no chance of being rehabilitated. Watch the salt mother get a slap on the wrist (probably 2-3 years in prison and "therapy"). These individuals are pure evil, absolute sickos, and will just seek another victim the first chance they get. There is no difference between them and other monsters we see committing crimes except for the fact they are worse and feel entitled to commit their crimes. Some individuals who have committed horrible crimes will admit they are "mean" or show type of introspection recognizing they have at least violated society's norms. MSBP "Moms" are not capable of even primitive introspection. VERY SCARY.

Bad Juju said...

Anon at 3:28, Lacey Spears ("salt mom") was already sentenced. She got 20 years to life.

Anonymous said...

That' s great, but nothing will bring her son back. I just hope people will stop viewing it as a "mental illness"...there is no mental illness that compels an individual to torture children...nevermind the degree of calculation that these perpetrators put into it. These individuals are literally the scum of the earth...they live wasted lives bringing others nothing but misery.