The Legal Investigator Fall 2010, Vol. 35, Issue 33 : Page 4
civil focus BODY LANGUAGE by Kathleen Cunningham AND INDICATORS OF DECEPTION A common indication of deception is an incongruence between the context of what the person is verbally saying and their body language. An example of this would be someone who says “yes,”but shakes their head from side to side, silently indicating “no.” 4 the legal investigator | Fall 2010 Legal investigators may find knowledge of body language and indications of decep-tion quite useful in a variety of settings such as witness and client interviews, re-view of video evidence and “reading” ju-rors, both in the voir dire setting as well as during trial. Proficiency in reading body language may add to the tools in your in-vestigative tool box for providing superior service to your clients. It is important to remember that reading body language is an inexact science. Career criminals, pathological liars, compulsive liars and “seasoned” liars may be able to suppress their outward indicators of deception, so it is vital that the body language be inter-preted in the context of what is being dis-cussed and how this behavior may differ from his “baseline” or everyday behavior. It will serve the investigator well to con-sider possibilities other than deception as reasons for body language changes. Vid-eotaping your interviews may help you to catch non-verbal cues that you may have missed the first time around. Some investigators may add their non-verbal observations in their discoverable writ-ten reports, but the observations may not meet the standards for scientific evidence set by Daubert v. Merrell Dow and may be ruled as inadmissible. Research has consistently shown that the majority of human communication is non-verbal. While interpreting body lan-guage is part art and part science, there are some general signs of deception that may be present in the majority of people when they are being dishonest, but by no means should your interpretations be considered absolute measures of honesty or deception. Body language is subject to individual interpretation and takes prac-tice to become proficient. The investigator needs to observe the wit-ness’ behavior in a non-threatening and relaxed environment. Ask non-threatening questions to get an idea of how the subject behaves when relaxed or telling the truth. This may give clues to the subject’s baseline behavior. Baseline behavior is important be-cause it provides a means of comparison to possible deceptive behavior. The investiga-tor may make observations about the sub-ject’s eyes, posture, muscle tone and other behaviors during these non-threatening questions. As the line of questioning con-tinues and the questions become more rele-vant to the issues at hand with the questions becoming more threatening to the witness, the number and intensity of indicators of de-ception may increase.