Language Indicators of Deception

Chapter 5: Detecting Deception in Investigation Interviews

Posted by Dawn Lomer in on March 3rd, 2015

Chapter 1: History of Detecting Deception

Chapter 2: Reading the Signs of Deception

Chapter 3: Setting a Baseline

Chapter 4: Forms of Deception

Chapter 5: Language Indicators of Deception

A skilled investigator is able to analyze language indicators, looking for symptoms of deception. Some indicators are:

  1. Use of terms that suggest uncertainty – expressions such as usually, kind of, sort of, are comfortable because they allow a subject to conceal rather than falsify.
  2. Fewer factual statements – the less detail a liar provides, the less he or she needs to remember when the investigator questions them about what they have said. Too much details leads to conflicting statements and mistakes.
  3. Passive language – interviewee switches from the active to the passive voice. Instead of “I then lock the door” he or she says “The door is then locked”.
  4. Use of the second person – interviewee uses second-person pronouns and refers to himself or herself in the second person.
  5. Shorter message duration – subjects say only what they think they have to say to convince the investigator they are telling the truth, without providing any extra information.
  6. Response latency – a change in the amount of time it takes someone to respond to a question, responding to some right away and taking longer to answer others.
TIP: When you encounter these indicators, note where in the conversation they occurred, without giving the subject any indication of your suspicion. Return later to this part of the subject’s story with more probing questions.
Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.