Detecting Deception Using Drawings and Sketches

An innovative technique to detect deception.

Posted Sep 23, 2018

36 clicks/RF123
Source: 36 clicks/RF123

In search of a more effective method to detect deception, researchers turned to drawings and sketches. Drawings and sketches bypass situations wherein interviewers are not fluent in the language of the interviewees, which eases the reliance on interpreters. Also, drawings and sketches require little input from interviewers or interpreters and, as a result, lessens the chances of losing information through miscommunication and translation.

Requiring interviewees to draw or sketch regarding spatial orientations increases cognitive load because the request is not expected. Requiring interviewees to make drawings or sketches is a good method to take advantage of unexpected spatial questioning. Liars rarely prepare their lies anticipating they will be asked spatial questions. Memories of experienced events inherently contain spatial information, but because a liar never experienced the event, the spatial information of objects lack accurate detail in comparison to a truth teller who actually experienced the event. Consequently, liars use fewer details in their drawings than truth tellers.  When reporting an event, the truth teller is able to retrieve spatial information and report it consistently, demonstrating cognitive flexibility. Liars are more likely to include extraneous items in their drawings.  

Vrij et al. (2010) used drawing as a technique to discriminate liars from truth tellers. And found that 80% of truth tellers and 87% of liars could be correctly classified using drawings. Requesting interviewees to draw an event or activity forces them to take a direct perspective; whereas, interviewees who write narratives or verbally recall events or activities can avoid indirect recall. For example, a person can verbally describe an object in a room such as a table without indicating any spatial information. Conversely, a person cannot draw an object without specifying its location. This spatial information is particularly useful because the drawing elicits additional details for the interviewer normally not accessible through standard narrative or orations.

Leins et al. (2011) accurately used sketches to discriminate between liars and truth tellers.  Leins et al. (2011) attributed the results of his study to the liar’s inability to encode spatial information such as the locations of objects. Memories of experienced events inherently contain spatial information, but because a liar never experienced the event, the spatial information of objects lack accurate detail in comparison to a truth teller who actually experienced the event (Leins et al., 2011). When reporting an event, the truth teller is able to retrieve spatial information and report it consistently, demonstrating cognitive flexibility (Leins et al. 2011). Detecting deception through the use of drawings and sketches shows promise as a new cross-cultural technique for detecting deception.

References

Leins, D., Fisher, R. P., Vrij, A., Leal, S., & Mann, S., (2011). Using sketch drawings to induce inconsistency in liars. Legal and Criminological Psychology. 16, 253-265.

Decicco, A. & Schafer, J. R.  (2018). Deception in Sketch Drawings. Law Enforcement Executive Forum, 18, 25-38.

Hjelmsater, E. R., Ohman, L., Granhag, P. A., & Vrij, A. (2014). ‘Mapping’ deception in adolescents: Eliciting cues to deceit through an unanticipated spatial drawing. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 19, 179-188.

Vrij, A., Leal, S., Mann, S., Warmelink, L., Granhag, A., & Fisher, R., (2010). Drawings as an innovative and successful lie detection tool. Journal of Applied Psychology, 24, 587-594.