One of the critical aspects within any investigation is assessing the credibility of witnesses; whether they are; the insured, claimant, subject officer or associated witness. There is no doubt that there is tremendous value in getting face to face with any given witness.
In order to be successful at reading witnesses; practitioners need to have the correct blend of artistic skill and scientific interpretation of witness behaviours. When these two (2) powerful elements blend together, tremendous insight into the credibility of the witness account is heightened.
What is some of the science? Well, body language and emotions are expressed through non-verbal communication. For example; there are 43 distinct muscular movements which the human face can make and these movements are connected to voluntary and involuntary emotions.
These patterns can often be subtle, especially when a person is intending deceit and does not want to be exposed. It could involve the quick wrinkling of facial muscles near the nose and eyes. These patterns are often called micro-expressions because of their fleeting nature. Despite this, the trained eye and aware investigator can pick up on these non-verbal cues and progress the line of questioning accordingly.
Of course, facial expressions are not the only indicator and other parts of the body often signal what is happening in the mind of the witness.
A clever liar may try to mask his or her facial expressions, but might not think to conceal the associated movement of the rest of the body. It is well established that emotion inspired body movements are universal and can be observed in every individual, regardless of cultural background. LKA Group not only employs this science within its interviewing techniques; it also informs its training programs of important cultural awareness issues that have been gleaned through diverse international investigations.
For example; directness of speech and eye contact may connote honesty in one particular culture; yet convey rudeness in another and may not be linked to potential lying.
It is important to acknowledge that bodily gestures and behaviours can also be accompanied by verbal dynamics such as the tone of the voice, rapidity and volume of the speech and non-verbal exhalation which can all be signs of truth or deceit in certain circumstances. These are called Para verbal cues and, as stated include pitch and pace of conversation and encapsulate things such as hesitation. Significant research has been conducted in this area and the results have been overwhelming that, when a person is telling a lie or stretching the truth; the pitch of the voice alters and the time taken to respond increases. This is an important concept as research suggests that up to 38% of what we communicate while speaking is done par verbally.
What is the relevance of reading witnesses? Often, the account given by a particular witness is a contributing factor to some sort of decision to be made by either a decision maker or a panel. These decision-makers must make an informed decision as to testimony credibility. Oral and written testimony is assumed to be evidence. The written evidence may seem genuine by one who merely reads it; yet if being presented with the evidence verbally and accompanied by behaviours and emotions, it suddenly becomes more powerful and opens the door to relevant contradiction.
The value of ‘eye-balling’ the witness can never be undervalued and really begs the question as to whether all witness interviews should be video-taped, in order to capture the wordless language of demeanour, intonations, grimaces and gestures?
LKA Group is committed to understanding demeanour; not just in the case of the interviewee but also in the case of the interviewer and how the investigator demeanour is observed, interpreted and acted upon by the interviewee. LKA entitles this as ‘Demeanour Reading Literacy’ and ensures that all its operators are up-skilled and literate in this important component of investigations.
Chief Operating Officer