Statement analysis is the process of analyzing an individual’s words and phraseology to reveal motivations, deceptions, and personality or psychological perceptions. First, the person conducting the statement analysis must determine a baseline or what is “normal” for this person and then track deviations from this pattern to reveal more than simply what is on the surface. Written statements are the easiest to conduct and when audio conversations are in question, it is optimal to transcribe these to a written format prior to analysis.
There are many useful techniques employed in statement analysis, this post will cover a few of those used to detect deception.
1. Pronouns. How people use pronouns in a statement can reveal much about the veracity of what they are saying. Typically, when people use the pronoun “I” in detailing information they are telling the truth. For example, “I went to the grocery store this morning and I met a man outside who asked me for change.” When people are explaining a sequence of events and omit the pronoun, it is often indicative that they are fabricating a portion of their statement. “After talking to the man outside, gunshots rang out and everyone scattered, got in a car and left.” This statement leaves out the pronoun “I” and changes dramatically from the first sentence where the baseline was established.
2. The Number 3. The use of the number three often indicates deception and when it is detected, care should be taken to establish the truthfulness of what the person is saying. For example, “There were three cars involved in the pileup on the highway before the accident.” “She left the party at 3:00 AM.” “I drank three beers that night.” Research shows that if people are not sure about a number they often will pick the number three.
3. Trying too Hard. Often people will try a bit too hard to establish they are telling the truth, such as including specific phrases that underscore they are being honest. Phrases such as the following can indicate deception:
“I swear on my mother’s grave”, “To be honest”, “I swear on the Bible” ,“To be sure”,
“God as my witness”, “Believe me”, “To tell the truth”, “Honestly”, “I swear to God”, “Frankly”
“Honest to God”, and “Really”.
4. Strange Details or Words. The devil is in the details, as the saying goes. The parts of a statement that have odd details or words that seem out of character, do not fit, or are nonsequeter often reveal what really happened. For example Marc McClish, a statement analyst, cites the following:
In August 2002, David Westerfield was convicted of killing Danielle Van Dam. In his
interview on June 12, 2002, he stated the following:
Question: “So did you stop and sleep?”
Answer: “Well, no. I stopped and ate and stuff like that. And took a shower. I was pretty
wasted. You know, working on the almost had a heart attack. I think.”
5. Deflection or Projection. When people project onto other people qualities they themselves possess, almost invariably negative qualities, it is often a sign of an untruthful person. It is common for people who are accustomed to lying to deflect the spotlight away from themselves by accusing others of engaging in things they do themselves. For example, when asked; ” Do you often get angry and hurt people?” A person may answer, ” You are only asking me this question because you are trying to hurt me because you are angry.”
Statement analysis is an art and a science that employs the subtleties of psychological profiling, semantic forensics, and a great attention to detail. Alone it can only provide clues to where additional analysis or investigation needs to be conducted but used in conjunction with other techniques, it can be a powerful addition to a litigation consultants toolbox.