Let Their Words Do the Talking

Verbal cues to detect deception.

Poor Man's Polygraph Part 3

Honest people seek alternate answers to Forced Response questions.

Poor Man's Polygraph Part 3

Forced Response

The Poor Man's Polygraph consists of a series of techniques that increase the probability of detecting deception using verbal cues. The Poor Man's Polygraph provides deceptive indicators, not proof of deception. No one verbal cue indicates deception, but the probability of deception increases when clusters of deceptive indicators are present. The Poor Man's Polygraph provides non-threatening, techniques to test the veracity of others using the cluster method.

The Poor Man's Polygraph consists of the following techniques: Well..., Land of Is, Forced Response, Why should I believe you?, and Parallel Lie. The Poor Man's Polygraph will be presented in a five part series. Part 1 presented the Well... technique. Part 2 presented the Land of Is. Part 3 will address Forced Response. The Poor Man's Polygraph can be found in its entirety in Advanced Interviewing Techniques: Proven Strategies for Law Enforcement, Military, and Security Personnel.

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Liars, when faced with two choices, tend to pick one of the choices presented rather than seeking a third alternative. This tendency is due to cognitive overload. Truthful people do not experience cognitive overload; they simply convey facts. Liars, on the other hand, are operating at near-full or full cognitive capacity depending on the complexity of the lies. Liars have to remember what they said and did not say. They also have to monitor and control their verbal responses and nonverbal behaviors. Additionally, liars have to monitor their target's verbal responses and nonverbal behaviors to ensure that the target believes the lie. The mind of a liar is fully occupied, especially if detection has dire consequences.

The Forced Response is designed to increase cognitive load. A truthful person has little difficulty processing the new information because they have excess cognitive processing capacity. Conversely, liars are using all or most of their cognitive processing capacity to maintain their deception and have little excess capacity to process new information.

The Forced Response technique presents a question that appears to have only two answers but, in actuality, alternate responses are available. The most infamous Forced Response question is, "Did you stop beating your wife?" This question would be difficult to answer for a man who is lying about beating his wife. If the man answers, "Yes," then he admits that he previously beat his wife but no longer beats her. If the man answers "No," then he admits that he continues to beat his wife. Since the man is lying, his cognitive processing capacity is fully engaged and a fully engaged brain has a tendency to reflexively choose one of the two alternatives presented. If a man who does not beat his wife is presented with the same proposition, he would have sufficient cognitive capacity to seek an alternate response such as, "I don't beat my wife."

The following exchanges demonstrate how an investigator might use the Forced Response technique on a suspected thief.

Example 1

INVESTIGATOR: Did you steal the money?

SUSPECT: No.

INVESTIGATOR: Do you really expect to get away with this?

SUSPECT: No.

INVESTIGATOR: That's why I'm here to stop you from getting away with it.

Example 2

INVESTIGATOR: Did you steal the money?

SUSPECT: No.

INVESTIGATOR: Do you really expect to get away with this?

SUSPECT: Yes.

INVESTIGATOR: That's why I'm here to stop you from getting away with it.

Example Three

An honest person has the cognitive processing capacity to produce an alternate response. For example:

INVESTIGATOR: Did you steal the money?

SUSPECT: No.

INVESTIGATOR: Do you really expect to get away with this?

SUSPECT: Get away with what?

The truthful person has the cognitive capacity to quickly process the new information and produce an alternate answer to the Forced Response question. When liars are presented with thought provoking questions, they tend to hesitate before they answer to give themselves time to formulate an appropriate answer. At the point of hesitation, a follow-on statement such as, "I didn't think you were telling me the whole truth;" "I knew you were stretching the truth a bit;" or "I knew there was more to the story" should be presented. A mild accusatory statement or skepticism should evoke a response from both truthful people as well as liars. The person's response to a mild accusation or slight skepticism is often more revealing than the initial answer to the Forced Response question.

Truthful people typically provide some pushback because they have been wrongly accused of lying. Truthful people often accompany their protests with emphatic gestures such as hitting the table with their hand or fist, finger pointing, or leaning forward. People tend to lean toward people and things they perceive as nonthreatening. Leaning forward signals honesty because the person answering the question does not see the person asking the question as a threat. Liars tend to accept being called liars with little, if any, protest. If liars do protest, they have a difficult time displaying emphatic gestures because they know they are lying. Liars also have a tendency to lean backwards to distance themselves from their accuser.

Mild pushback is an indication of honesty. Too much pushback or too little or no pushback is an indicator of deception. Although truthful people, for various reasons, may hesitate when answering a Forced Response question, the behaviors they display after a mild accusation is made or when skepticism is introduced should serve to offset the initial indication of deception. Remember, no one indicator indicates deception. However, the probability of deception significantly increases when clusters of deceptive indicators are displayed.

In selective circumstances, parents can use the Forced Response to test the veracity of their kids. For example:

DAD: Where were you last night?

SON: I went out with some friends and then we just hung out at Bryan's house.

DAD: Did you think I wouldn't find out?

SON: Find out about what? (Quizzical glance)

Although this is a contrived exchange, it does demonstrate how parents could use the Forced Response. The Forced Response question is "Did you think I wouldn't find out?" If the son answered, "Yes?" it would mean that he thought his father would find out what he did. If the son answered, "No," it would mean that he thought his father would not find out what he did. Both answers suggest the son was trying to hide his activities from his dad. The son answered, "Find out about what?" followed by a quizzical glance, which indicates that he had sufficient cognitive processing capacity to seek an alternate response and was probably telling the truth.This and other verbal indicators or deception are detailed in Fibs to Facts: A Parental Guide to Effective Communication.

Sales people capitalize of the Forced Response. They often pose the question: What color car do you like, red or blue? Many people would reflexively select either red or blue. If the customer answers, "Red," the sales person would respond something like this, "Good choice. We have lots of red cars. Let me show them to you." If the customer answers, "Blue," the sales person would respond something like this, "Good choice. We have lots of blue cars. Let me show them to you." If the customer answers, "Neither, I like black cars," the sales person would respond something like this, "Good choice. We have lots of black cars. Let me show them to you." The question a sales person never asks a customer is, "Do you want to buy a car?" Force Response questions are very effective in today's society because we are continually flooded with information, which severely taxes our cognitive processing capacity and consequently, our ability to think before we act. 

 

 

 

 

John R. "Jack" Schafer, Ph.D., earned his degree in psychology from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, California and served as a behavioral analyst for the FBI.

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