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NVC 47: Baseline

Baseline: A baseline is a snapshot of how an individual acts and talks in a non stressful, nonthreatening situation. It’s also a time when they really have no reason or nothing to gain by lying. Establishing a baseline is very important and useful when studying behavior for possibledeception. It involves speaking with the individual about general topics that, again, they have no reason to lie about, such as the weather, a movie, or a game they may have seen. Pay attention to how the individual acts in a nonthreatening, nonintrusive conversation. It’s a great place to start getting a baseline. During your conversations, make note of all the nonverbal cues the person displays when they are talking. I usually do this by breaking it down by areas of the body. The areas to look at are: The face and head, torso, arms, hands legs and feet. Pat attention to each part of the body and what they are doing during normal conversation. Do they touch their face a lot, rub their arms, or tap their feet? Are their hands and arms moving freely? These are the cues you need to pay attention to so that when you transition into any type of questioning to detect possible deception, you will notice the change from the baseline behavior. Again, once you have an idea of how they act and behave a “normal”, non-stress situation, it will be very useful in noticing the changes.

Voice: In regards to the voice and choice of words used, make note of the how they sound and the words used during a normal non-stressful conversation. Pay attention to tone, volume, word choice, speech patterns, “umm”’s and “ahh”’s, and anything else that seems unusual.

Face and Emotions: This is an area where individuals display how they are feeling and processing emotions. This is where many people make mistakes when looking for deception. They may think someone is lying, but they are actually just really passionate or emotional about something they are discussing. Make sure you consider the totality of what your asking and what is going on before you jump to any negative conclusions. Try to get a feel for something unrelated that they are passionate about or feel strongly about so you can get some type of feel for their baseline emotion. Politics and religion are usually great places to get emotion and compare that later to your deception detection. This will give you an opportunity to observe them and look for differences on the way they behave compared to the baseline you just took of their “normal” behavior. During your deception detection phase, when you ask them about something that makes them upset or nervous, they start displaying cues that they did not display under non stressful conditions. The question becomes why the difference? This whole process gives you a great picture of what the person looks and sounds like under normal, truthful conditions.

Inconsistencies and Potential deception cues: When deciding if someone is lying to you the first thing you need to do is look for differences from the baseline. Maybe used their hands a lot before when speaking during base-lining, but when they are answering questions and talking now their hands barely move. Why? If they are now answering differently from the way they talked before, same deal, why? Be aware of what precipitated the change in demeanor and go back to it later. Their voice pitch and sound may be lower, speech may be slower, hesitant or monotone. Some of the most common deception cues are cues that research has shown prove to be reliable indicators of potential deception, especially if they were not present during the baseline time frame, such as emotions on face that don’t match the words being said; nodding yes when saying no, or vice versa; rubbing the face, back of the head or neck, grooming or other soothing behaviors, shoulder shrugs when saying “absolutely” or “I’m positive, that’s the truth.”. Depending on the question, they may be thinking a lot harder than they should be. As I have said before, during any conversation or questioning, it is very important to make note mentally or in writing. Changes in demeanor caused by a question you asked or a situation you are discussing. These deviations from the baseline should be noted and assessed in clusters. I have always said three or more should be considered heavily when assessing whether or not someone is being forthcoming and truthful. Remember, a person may not be lying but still may not be telling you the entire story. If there are nonverbal cues occurring in clusters during a questioning or direct conversation, your skill as an interviewer will require you to dig deeper and try and determine why the individual seems bothered or uncomfortable with the topic or questions. This is where many interviewers lack the skill to ask the right questions it is important that you know if they are lying to you, then it is time to dig a bit deeper. Its not just ask open ended questions . They have to be the right type of open ended questions that require the person to verbalize more about what they are saying or stating. Use the process of cognitive questioning. This is where you ask the individual “tell me more about that… describe for me what you saw, explain to me what you did, saw, said” type of questions. This will force them to talk more, giving you more of a chance to observe the verbal and nonverbal cues being displayed so that you can decode and decipher. If need be, you can ask further questions regarding those “hot spots” that presented themselves during the conversation/questioning. I have talked about tactics before and those that lend themselves in helping you identify deception. For example, during questioning or during a conversation If you are discussing a story with a timeline ask the individual questions that don’t allow them to begin at the beginning. Many people that are telling a false story memorize it in order and asking those questions out of order. Truth tellers will have no problem navigating the conversation or the answers. Its those who are being deceptive that will struggle. As part of his study on cognitive interviewing, R. Edward Geiselman from UCLA suggests asking them to tell the story backwards for the very same reason. Lastly, you can also ask them a question that is completely unexpected and see how they react. Again, deceptive individuals will struggle while truth tellers will not.

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