If one is forced to rely only on either nonverbal or verbal cues for detection, verbal cues are generally recognized as the more reliable indicator. There is a stronger positive relationship between deceptive detection accuracy and vocal cues such as speech errors, speech fillers, pauses, and voice tone. The more attentive the listener the more effective a detector he will be.

Detection of verbal cues is especially important when conducting an interview remotely, such as by phone. In this case it is crucial for the interviewer to establish a baseline of the interviewee’s verbal speech pattern on neutral topics.

As the interview progresses, the interviewer should be wary of repeated clusters of deviations from the baseline pattern.

Typical deceptive indicators include:

  • Speech stumbles,
  • Increased pauses between answers or sentences,
  • Filler words such as “umm,” “ahh,” and “uh huh” before responding to a question,
  • Stalling for time by answering a question with a question
  • Asking the speaker to repeat the question

In the case of an evasive answer, a useful technique may be to ask for clarification with direct “yes” or “no” questions. If the interviewee pauses before answering, continues to avoid giving a direct answer, or begins an answer with the word “well,” the probability of deception increases. Clusters of these verbal cues indicate an increased probability of deception, although all indicators are more likely to be relevant when compared with the subject’s verbal and nonverbal baseline.


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