By Ralph Thomas

In a statement analysis, the investigator focuses on the words, lack of words used, body language and/or handwriting in the response from a witness or subject to to determine truthfulness instead of focusing on the facts that are stated. The key to using these techniques is often deviation from the norm or a deviation or switch from one type of descriptive communication to another. This type of investigative interviewing technique can be quite effect and is used and officially taught by top rated investigative organizations such as the Federal Bureau Of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In order to use this type of technique, a different type of interviewing technique is employed. Barry Zalma's innovative investigative interviewing book, Uncover The Truth, The Investigative Interviewing Manual, reveals to the reader that through the use of various techniques, no one can consistently lie to a good investigative interviewer and the truth can be pulled, even from an unwilling subject or witness. But other techniques other than pure and direct fact finding questioning needs to be used in these types of cases. Instead of a focused and limited question and answer session, you simply let the subject or witness describe in his or her own words what happened during the day of the event and write it down or otherwise record the statement. The witness or subject is asked to describe the event in question from his or her perspective for the complete day of the event. By letting the subject express the complete day in detail as to his or her activities, you develop a complete accounting in words of the subject or witness without any question prompting from yourself. Pointed and focused questions can be used after this technique is first employed.

In using this technique, you now have a complete record of the day's accounting in the subject's own words and own communication style. The analysis can now be conducted based on the words and communications style picked by the subject or witness and a change in the choice of certain communications styles becomes a red flag. What you are actually looking for is a change in language, wordage or other communication methods used by the subject. Once a change in language is noted, special attention needs to be paid to these areas.

Phrasing analysis and careful analysis of content can be conducted to look for further signs of deception, once you have the full statement. The statement can be either a written statement or a verbally recorded statement with the subject's knowledge and consent.

Aside from language analysis, you can also conduct body language analysis as well as handwriting analysis.
Although not one hundred percent foolproof, these techniques can be a strong indication of deception. In order to better understand this technique, let us look at some specific examples and common communications styles in the actual analysis.
We are going to be focusing on the following:



Before we go through some of the cutting-edge techniques, a quick review of methods of recording the statement are in order describing the advantages and disadvantages of each. In a written statement, you'll only have the handwriting and the words used by the subject. A step up from that would be the verbal recording of the subject by use of an audio tape recording. This gives you an extra dimension of the interview not found in the written statement. It has one drawback in that it lacks the subject's handwriting. A step up from that would be the video recorded statement. It has all the advantages of both words used, verbal expression and also offers a recording of the subject's body language. Wordage and phrasing analysis can be done with all types of recorded statements mentioned above. Naturally, only the written statement made by the subject or witness could be used for handwriting analysis and only a video recording could be used for analysis of body language.

The pronoun "I" needs to be given special focus in the subject statement. Most people will reply in the first person, i.e. "I". Any deviation from that would be a subconscious indicator and red flag of deception. When someone answers a question untruthfully concerning themselves, they will sometimes subconsciously attempt to draw focus away from themselves by avoiding the use of the first person pronoun, "I". This could include words such as "we", "it", "they", "them", ""the other", or even "it".
One of the best indicators of this is in a statement in which the subject continues to describe his accountings using the word "I" and then, all of a sudden, he or she simply stops using it. An example of this might look like this.


I awoke at 7:30. I got up and made coffee. I drank my coffee and then showered and dressed. I read the newspaper. I felt the house about 8:15. I arrived at work at 8:45. I worked until lunchtime which was about 12:30. I left work for lunch and traveled to BoJo's Counter Grill. Met John Rutherford for lunch and then returned to work about 1:30. I worked until about 5:00.

Note that the only time the subject did not use the first person pronoun "I" in his statement was when he described meeting Rutherford for lunch. This is a red flag.

Anytime you see a deviation from a first person pronoun in a statement, a red flag should go up. The subconscious is at work attempting to distance one's self from any individual involvement.
Any time the pronoun "we" is used when it appears that the first person pronoun "I" should be used, you have the same situation. The subject's subconscious is at work attempting to distance himself or herself by having others involved when no one else is.
When two people are actually involved and the pronoun "we" should be used, you can sometimes spot a deviation from this in a statement. An example of this might look something like this:


We left the office at 5:30. We arrived at the meeting at about 6:00. After the meeting was over, my coworker and myself left and went to Ron's Pool Hall.

In this statement, notice that the subject used the word "we" until the meeting was over. All of the sudden, "we" becomes "my co-worker and myself.

People will also subconsciously shift from one pronoun to another in accounting descriptions which should be another red flag. For example:

The party was over about 1:00 AM and they left to go to the Pancake House. It was late but they wanted to go for breakfast. Once we left the restaurant........

Notice the shift from "they" to "we".

Possessive pronouns work the same way as with pronouns describing people. Possessive pronouns often used to describe possession or ownership may include words such as my, our, their, his, her, or your.
Just like the deviation of "we" to "they, a sudden switch in the use of possessive pronouns should be a red flag. For example........


We took our money and went down to 5th street. We parked on Main Street as traffic was high and we could not find a close place to park. We then walked down about two blocks and turned right onto 5th with our money. They hit John over the head and took the money.

Notice everything was "our money" until the event occurred. All of the sudden "our money" becomes "the money".

In investigative analysis, always look for these types of switches in pronouns and always consider why the subject or witness has switched the selection of the pronoun in his or her communications style.
Noun analysis can also be used in the same type of technique. Again, simply look for a change in the noun used in the description. An example might look something like this...
My wife and I left the house about 7:30 and went to the Marina. My wife and I left the Marina in our boat at about 9:00 AM. We obtained fuel and food in the boat store and then my wife and I headed for Creek Cove. Arriving at about 10:15, the boat was anchored and my wife and I started to swim. I got back out of the water about 10:30. It was about 10:45 when I noticed that Cindy was not in sight.

Notice the change from "wife" to 'Cindy".

Verbs will generally express action in the subject or witness's accounting of events and will be stated in a tense form. Tense in action is stated in either past, present or future. Anytime the tense in a statement changes, a red flag should go up. Here is an example of this:
About the middle of last month, I went down to the airport to wash my plane. I parked in the normal members only area. I approached the hanger door. Opening the door, I see that my plane is gone. I went up to the office and asked if anyone knew anything about the plane. I then called the police.

Notice that the subject switched from past tense to present tense when he opened the door and noted that his plane was not where it was supposed to be. He then switched back to past tense. This is often done in a subconscious manner and is a red flag.

In Gavin De Becker's new book on personal security titled Gift Of Fear, he sets out the fact that a stranger offering information that is not asked for should be a warning sign of danger. He also describes people who walk up to you and overwhelm you with information is also a warning sign of danger.

In witness statement analysis, there can be many signs of extraneous information and information presented out of order in relationship to time. These indicators should be considered red flags. When a truthful person describes events for a day, those events are usually set out in a chronological way. When the account is not presented in a chronological manner, a red flag should go up.
Justifications to action is another red flag. It's an opinion. Remember, you didn't ask for opinion or justification, just facts set out in the subjects own words. This extra information should be viewed with suspicion.
The more disorganized an account, the more the account is out of order chronologically and the more extraneous information is found in an account, the more the account becomes suspect.

Extraneous phrases are phases a subject adds to an accounting which points to no conviction on the subject which is sometimes concealed with language indicating that the subject can not remember. A person engaged in deception is more likely to use extraneous phrasing such as "I believe, I think or kind of or to the best of my knowledge, ". These phrases are red flags in that they point to a focused lack of conviction on the part of the subject or witness. Phrasing in this type of manner is often referred to as qualifiers which tend to diminish the action and tend to point to non-conviction in the statement.
If someone should be scared and it's described as, "kind of" or if someone should be mad and it's described as, "I think I was", this is the type of thing we are taking about.

Observation of body language can only be observed by the investigator unless the accounting is video taped. Thus, video taping provides the words of the statement, the expression used in the statement and the body language used by the subject. Just as you can develop switches in actual wordage used in accountings, you can also utilize body language deviation in analysis. If your subject or witness changes his body language suddenly while giving his or her accounting, this should be a red flag of deception. Examples of this could be:

Communicating with hands and suddenly stops using them.
Leans forward during specific aspects of accounting.
Crosses legs only during certain accountings.
Crosses arms only during certain accountings.
Twitching only in specific key areas.
Scratching or touching various places only in specific areas.
Out of order eye blinking.
Fumbling with pens or other items during specific areas.

Most body language is rather subconious. Pulling on ears, touching noise with a finger, scratching, pulling bottom lip up over top lip or top lip over bottom lip before verbal communication, shifting legs or arms--these are all signs that can be observed in a video statement. When they are not found throughout the statement and appear only in critical areas of verbal content, a red flag should go up.

There are many good handwriting analysis experts in the country. Several investigative agencies even offer services for handwriting analysis for specific types of investigative tasks such as pre-employment screening. Most major law enforcement agencies employ handwriting analysis experts which is a good indication of the power of the subject. Here are the top six red flags of handwriting specifics that could indicate deception:

Script of the writer is inferior in certain places than in others.
Writer starts with one slant and then changes the slant.
Broken vowels are found in the sentence under question.
Double loops are found in letters within a sentence when otherwise
not present.
Subject uses long sweeping pre-strokes.
Subject's handwriting is almost unreadable in certain places.


Sometimes red flags can be drawn from considering the total content of the statement and studying in it detail. Deception can sometimes be spotted using this method. A statement should have three parts:
1) Accounting leading up to event.
2) Accounting of the actual event
3) Accounting of what happened after the event

  Section the statement into these three parts. Now count the words and sentences in each part and examine each part's contents. Each part should contain the same amount of details concerning content and each part should be about thirty-three percent of the total.
Remember that I said none of this is fool-proof. Of course, little in life is. It must be noted that one red flag could be meaningless but when the red flags mount up, so does the evidence of deception. By using all the tools above and studying this subject in depth, the investigator will indeed become a better investigator at uncovering the truth. I have listed other resources and aids for further study.