Developing rapport with a subject early in the interview can be very valuable to ultimately obtaining a confession. Spending time with the subject discussing non-threatening topics will put the person at ease. The questions asked by the interviewer during the rapport building process should not be personal. These questions can be as simple as verifying their address, phone number, the spelling of a name or work history. For interviewers who prefer to evaluate behavioral and physiological responses to questions the rapport building process allows them to establish the subject’s normal responses to questions. This makes evaluating truthful and deceptive responses later in the interview easier.
A common occurrence in normal conversations is mirroring. Both parties will mimic the posture, gestures and mannerisms of the other. When building rapport the interviewer can mimic the posture and gestures of the subject. Once the interviewer feels that rapport has been established he or she should move slightly (cross or uncross legs etc.). If the subject mirrors this movement rapport has been established.
Signs of Deception
There is no guaranteed way to determine if a subject is lying. There are no typical nonverbal behaviors that are associated with deception. Not all liars display the same behavior in the same situation. Additionally, behaviors will differ across deceptive situations (Virj, 2000). The interviewer has to rely on his or her experience and instincts to make that determination.
Changes in behavior in response to questions should be noted. If the interviewer has taken the time to establish rapport with the subject, deceptive responses may be more obvious. Any one word or behavior on its own should not be considered an indicator of dishonesty. However, if the behavior is linked to a question about the subject’s involvement in the investigation there is a good chance that the behavior is an indicator of dishonesty. Behaviors should be consistent when the question is repeated and deceptive signals typically occur in clusters. Following are behaviors that may indicate dishonesty:
∞ Slumping over or leaning back in the chair.
∞ Sitting in a way that protects the abdomen.
∞ Shifting position in the chair Hand and Arms:
∞ Placing the hand over the mouth to muffle words or hide expressions.
∞ Arms crossed with the thumbs extended. Legs and Feet:
∞ Movement of legs and feet
∞ Legs crossed with the knee raised to protect the abdomen.
∞ Legs crossed with arms holding the leg in place as a barrier. Head and Neck:
∞ Head down can indicate a negative attitude or submission.
∞ Head back looking down the nose.
∞ Head nodding or head shaking
Neurolinguistic eye movement can be an indicator of deception. Once the interviewer has determined the normal responses to questions he or she may be able to evaluate the truthfulness of a subject’s response based on eye movement. This concept is based on a belief that most people move their eyes in a certain direction when recalling and creating information. For example, if a subject is asked to recall the color of the shirt they wore the day before their eyes would move up and to their left while they retrieved the memory. If the subject decided to lie, their eyes would shift up and to the right while they created an answer. Recalling and creating sound memories are associated with eye movements directly left or right. Looking down and to the right is associated with creating tactile memories. And looking down and to the left is associated with internal dialogs or getting in touch with one’s feelings (Wicklander & Zulawski, 1993).
There are also verbal indicators of deception that interviewers must interpret. These may or may not be accompanied by an observable behavior. The most telling verbal indicators are when the words do not match the physical behaviors that accompany them. For example, if the subject says “no” but shakes his or her head in a “yes” gesture. Following are some verbal indicators of dishonesty:
∞ Skipping around in sentences.
∞ Stopping sentences or leaving off the end.
∞ Inappropriate laughter.
∞ Starting to speak in the third person.
∞ Telling the interviewer that they have done things (similar to the things currently under investigation) wrong in the past.
∞ Repeating the interviewer’s question.
∞ Asking the interviewer to repeat the question.
∞ Asking the interviewer “are you accusing me”?
∞ Giving very short answers.
∞ Overgeneralizations (any, all, never, always etc).
∞ Saying “I can’t recall”.
The following phrases are usually indicators that the subject is going to finish the sentence with a lie:
∞ “I swear on the bible that I didn’t…”
∞ “To tell you the truth…”
∞ “To the best of my knowledge…”
∞ “You may not believe this but…”
∞ “I know that this sounds strange but…”
Identifying the subject’s dishonesty is an important part of an interrogation. However, the interviewer must be able to convince the subject to confess. Most interviewers use stories and rationalizations to move the subject closer to a confession. The stories are intended to convince the subject that he or she is not the first person to find themselves in their situation and that the first step to feeling better about the situation is to tell the truth. The stories that interviewers use may be real experiences or fabricated. Rationalizations are another important part of convincing a subject to confess. The interviewer presents possible reasons for the subject to have committed the crime. Presenting these rationalizations allows the subject to give a face saving reply as to why they committed the crime. Finally, interviewers will often minimize the severity of the crime. This can be accomplished by softening the language used during the interview. In that way murder becomes “hurt”, theft becomes “take” etc. It is much easier for a subject to say that they borrowed a car without permission than to confess to carjacking.
A large part of the interrogation will involve the interviewer offering these rationalizations and stories combined with minimizing the subject’s actions. The investigator has to find a theme that the subject can relate to. Once that has happened, the subject’s behavior will change. The subject will enter submission and be ready to confess. Some signs of submission are:
∞ Less forceful denials or lack of denials.
∞ Slumped posture.
∞ Eyes looking down.
∞ Teary eyes or crying.
∞ Letting out a sigh.
At this point once when the interviewer again makes an accusation the subject should accept it and acknowledge his or her guilt. This acknowledgment may be just a small nod or “yes”. The investigator should try to keep the subject talking about the crime to prevent them from re-canting.
Your goal is to find out what happened and how it happened so you can prevent it from happening again. Conducting an interview is among the most challenging and rewarding tasks that an investigator will be called upon to perform. Often the outcome of an investigation is determined by the success or failure of the interviewer. Those that are interested in interviewing should practice, practice, practice. Quality training and practice will help you become successful at conducting interviews and gaining reward. There is no one-interview methodology that works best. If possible, obtain training in a variety of methods. Understanding and being able to use a variety of techniques gives the interviewer more tools in his or her toolbox (Hoffman, 2005).