How Language is Used to Detect Deception

Listen carefully during investigation interviews, not just to what people say, but also to the words they choose.

Posted by Joe Gerard in on April 25th, 2012

Some people lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings; others may lie to stay out of trouble. Whether someone is lying to protect a friend or cover up an incident, it’s difficult to tell in a workplace investigation. This is why it’s important that investigators pay attention to everything an interviewee says and constantly be on the hunt for indications of deception.

Determining Credibility

When an interviewee gives conflicting responses during an investigation interview, it becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Investigators need to be able to verify the accuracy of statements made during investigation interviews. The EEOC has put together a list of 5 factors to consider when evaluating the credibility of statements made during investigation interviews. The 5 factors are:

  1. Inherent Plausibility: Does the interviewee’s statements make sense?
  2. Demeanor: Does the interviewee seem to be lying?
  3. Motive to Falsify: Is there a reason for the interviewee to lie?
  4. Corroboration: Is there a witness or physical evidence to validate the interviewee’s statements?
  5. Past Record: Does the alleged subject have a history of similar behavior?

Things to Listen For

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One of the toughest challenges to overcome during investigation interviews is the fact that witnesses may withhold or modify their responses to protect the subject or the complainant, and possibly even themselves. This makes an investigator’s ability to detect deception even more important.

Although a number of people claim that you can tell when someone is lying by observing the body language of an interviewee, it may not be the most accurate method for detecting deception. According to expert investigator Don Rabon, language indicators can be a very powerful way to detect deception and get to the truth. In his book “Interviewing and Interrogation: Second Edition,” co-authored with Tanya Chapman, Rabon writes:

“The interviewer should listen for the presence of any of the following dynamic in the interviewee’s responses:

  1. Attempts to evade questions
  2. Vague answers
  3. Conflicting information
  4. Different answers to the same or similar questions
  5. Falsehoods or inaccurate information
  6. Inability to commit to their own narrative through the use of terms such as “normally, usually, sort of, kind of, basically,” etc. (The use of these terms provides the interviewer with excellent probing points to explore the possibility of deception via concealment).

A falsehood stated by an interviewee can provide the interviewer with much more than just a deception indicator. Because of the interviewee’s inevitable difficulty with remembering deceptive assertions made earlier, it becomes increasingly possible he or she will inadvertently reveal the truth.”

Webinar with Don Rabon

If you are looking for more information on deception detecting techniques and using language as a deception indicator, we invite you attend a free webinar we are hosting tomorrow at 2pm EDT.  The webinar will be led by Don Rabon and is called “Detecting Deception: Investigation Interviewing Skills”. To register to attend, click here.


Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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