Yesterday a fellow investigator had a question about eye movement that was posted to the private-eye mailing list. In less than eight hours, he had some very good answers. This question with answers is a very good example of the high value of the private-eye mailing list. To join the private-eye mailing list, just click here for more information.

When interviewing a subject, and they are looking you in the eye when you
ask them a question, and their eyes quickly look to the side (not look away -
but just a quick loss of eye contact that seems to be an unconscious act on
their part) just before they give a response to your question. What, if
anything, may that mean?

Foster Investigations
P.O. Box 863
Normal, IL 61761

I saw a couple of responses to your question and I thought I'd like to
contribute. My opinion may differ a bit from what you've heard so far, and this is
based on a book I'd read, and a some subsequent research.

No non-verbal behavior is really significant in and of itself, but
can be potentially valuable as an indicator of anxiety and therefore
possibly deception, when viewed as a repeatable "cluster" of behaviors
which deviate from a previously observed baseline These "clusters" are
usally evident during the "beat" between the asking of a stressful
question and the subject's answer.

I know this sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but basically it
means that you have to understand what is the "normal" or expected
behavior from that subject before you can evaluate any particular
non-verbal reaction in terms of identifying "deception" or as an
indicator of stress. However...loss of eye-contact during a subject's
answer MAY indeed be indicative of deception or stress and is a classic
avoidance behavior. In order to operate with any confidence in your
assumptions, it's just usually not that simple.

Hope this helps,


Jay Eschenberg
Eschenberg Investigation
PO 7998
Albuquerque, NM 87194
Email: jaeschen@nm.net

From the classes I took in NeuroLinguistic Programming, When the eyes
dart to the side, level they are accessing an audiotory cue. Meaning if
I asked you "What does a drum sound like?" your eyes would flick to the
right as a remembered sound. Doing the short version of it, visual is
up, sound is middle, physical/emotion is down.

Joseph Seanor
CIBIR Corporation
Computer Crime Investigators
Email: cibir@netcom.com

Well, you would have to consider that with all the other verbal and non-verbal responses. It's not an exact science. Some people just have a habit of doing that on any question--others don't.

Ralph Thomas
Email: RThomas007@aol.com

I DO think that the "eye movement" can be a significant indication...IF it
is attested to by several other indicators. But judgement and discernment are really
important here.

Here's why the eye-movement MAY be important.
It's all based on a science called, NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming.
Basically, WHICH direction the eyes moved and for WHAT questions is the key

Here's a popular example: Often times, when we're trying to picture
something from our distant past, and find it difficult to remember, we'll
tend to lift our eyes up and to our left.
As an experiment, ask someone what the color of the first family car
was...or some other question that requires concentrating on the description
of an object/event in the distant past. I think you'll find that most
people will tend to look up and to their left as they think.
But this is just ONE eye-movement.

Ask the SAME person: "What does your ideal house of the future look like?",
and he'll likely look up(connecting with a visual impression) and to the
RIGHT, (looking forward) in time.

Now, using this example, suppose you were questioning a suspect as to
something you suspect he's observed.

If, in his response, he looks up and to the left, he may be more likely
trying to give a correct, accurate answer because the eye movements (to the
left means, generally, looking/hearing something from the past ot having an
internal conversation) would be consistent with the response you'd expect.

If he looks to the right (ahead in time), he may be trying to imagine what
his story would sound like to whoever's hearing it (in which case, he's
tend to look straight over to his right (auditory/imagining sound) rather
than up, which is a more "visual" connection.)

Does this make any sense at all??? I know this is all very confusing...
It's certainly far from an exact science, but I think it's absolutely

And it's also easy to be misled and sidetracked if you're mistaken.
See,here's the kicker: For some people, they do the exact opposite.
And I guess some just don't fall into either catagory.


Now, you said the interviewee looked to the side... Do you remember
specifically what the question was?

Sometimes it's natural to break off eye contact if one has to try to form
some kind of image in their head. This is done because the image of your
face is, subconsiously, distracting them, so they look away.
Did his eyes come to rest on something else? Did his eyes restlessy roam
the room?

Also, this person may be nervous around authority figures, and the "act" of
not looking you in the eye is more an introversive response than guilt. I'm
sure that's prevalent in several cultures.

According to NLP principles, it is possible that if he moved his eyes
directly to his left (indicates the brain is trying to auditory info from
the past) that he may have been trying to recall a conversation. Looking
directly to his right, he may be running his comments through his mind to
determine how he'll sound.
Confused yet???

My knowledge of the NLP is academic. I do use it as a tool, but it's
difficult to to.

There is so much to focus on during an interview that I don't want to risk
missing something more important because I wasn't focused.
Certainly if you have a video of the session, that would really help.

For ANYONE reading this, please feel free to comment.

Keith Walker
Discovery Services Insurance Investigation
Email: discovery@map.com

Much like the folks who wave a PHD in your face and tell you how to raise your
children, there are those who profess to have studied eye movements to the
point that they can analyze them.

I have known single mothers with little formal education who lived in the
projects, worked menial jobs and somehow managed to raise children with class
and integrity. I have four children of my own and I would rather have their
advice then anything proffered by any "Ivy League" alumnus - Phd or not.

Similarly, I have little faith in academic experts with no track record. When
it comes to this sort of thing, I want to know how much field experience these
experts have - with what agency, for how long, working what kind of cases? You
cannot learn this sort of thing in a classroom.

Do not misunderstand - studies have taught us a lot and there are experts with
valuable insight to offer. For example, you might run your question by former
federal agent G. Brown - you can reach him at GBrown0007@aol.com.

Just as I was not trying to bash all "experts," it was not my intention to
obfuscatorily evade your question. If you interview a subject and he breaks
eye contact and rolls his eyes up, down, left or right, he may be accessing
some area of his brain indicative of deception - or he may be tired, nervous,
hungry, scared or prone to do that sort of thing when he simply doesn't know
what to say.

Statement analysis involves more than a single aspect of the statement. You
must listen to what the subject says and listen for the things he does not
say. You must watch for physiological response and test those responses
through structured questioning to determine what they mean WHEN MANIFESTED BY

For example, interview a person who has spent twenty years in prison. The
first thing you'll notice is the lack of eye contact - "yard eyes." These
folks live in an arena where eye contact alone my provoke a fatal
confrontation - "What the f^&* you lookin at?!" Naturally, they grow to avoid

Also, in your situation, he may be keying off you. Perhaps you look at him a
little more intently when you ask the probative question in an effort to
assess his physiological response. Maybe he responds to that by breaking eye
contact; maybe he's lying though his teeth.

Eye movement, in and of itself, doesn't mean a thing.

Bill E. Branscum
(941) 353-8186
Email: OracleIntl@aol.com

I have to agree with some of what Bill Branscum said and what Keith said.
And I have to disagree with some of what they said.

I studied eye movement as part of a course that was given the by
International Chiefs of Police on interview and interrogation.

When Keith says "when we're trying to picture something from our distant
past, and find it difficult to remember, we'll tend to lift our eyes up and
to our left. that if someone moves their eyes up and to the left" he may be
right - but it could also be wrong.

This whole area of study involves determining what is normative for THAT
person for THAT type of memory. People store memories differently based on
their "trigger". For example, have you ever noticed that the smell of a
freshly baked apple pie will bring memories of growing up flooding back?
For some people, this is the type of trigger that they have to old, deep
memories. It's a sensory thing.

Others have a "camera" and they tend to see the whole scene. The person who
is taking a test and can "see" the answer on a specific page of the textbook
is another example of how someone stores memories.

Short term memory is stored differently and tends to be accessed
differently. Long term memory is another issue altogether. In short, it is
unique for each person and for the type of memory that is involved. What is
important, however, is determining what is NORMAL for THAT person. Once I
have determined that, I look for eye movement that is to the opposite side
of memory. That is because the opposite of memory is creation (lying).

You can't use it on a question by question basis and say, "Aha" this one is
a lie! You have to look at the totality of the interview. I use this as
well as body language and other issues to determine if a person has been
deceptive during their interview with me. The best that I can say is that
the person exhibited signs of deception during the interview and seemed to
be deceptive on questions relating to XX.

Sorry to be so long-winded but this is an interesting subject and there are
a lot of issues related to this.

Ed McArdle
E & E Consulting
"Excellence in Everything We Do"
FL A9700408
Coconut Creek, FL
954-428-5654 (FAX)

Once again, for info on joining the private-eye mailing list, just click here for more information.