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On the Street: Non-Verbal Messages

Michael Server

Non-verbal suspect communication during an interview or interrogation could provide a police investigator with basic information that may help determine a suspect’s level of honesty and cooperation. These non-verbal cues can be broken down into several categories, which are not limited to but may include: neuron linguistic assessment, verbal response latency, verbal speed, speech volume changes and physical posturing.

Which Side of My Brain Do You Prefer? Scientists tell us that the human brain is divided in to a right and left hemisphere. In 80% of the population the left side of the brain controls imagination and expression and the right side of the brain controls logical and factual recall. Neuron pathway arrangement, however, is the opposite. As an example, when a suspect is asked a question and he/she looks or gazes to the left he/she is accessing the right side of the brain for a factual (honest) reply. And when a person looks or gazes to the right, after a question, he/she may be suppressing (preparing to lie) or devising a misleading response.

Let Me Think About That or “Who Me?” Verbal response latency – the time it takes for a person to respond to a question – may help determine honesty or deceit. The average person generally responds to a question within .5 to 1.5 seconds. Answers beyond that time frame may be strongly considered unreliable or misleading. Exceptions may include thoughtful, sincere responses to profess innocence or ponderous questions that may reasonably require more time to access memory (i.e. recalling where you were on a specific date). A secondary form of response latency involves a question that is answered with a question. An example would include: “Did you steal the money?” Answer: “Why do you think I would do that?” In both cases the suspect is most likely buying time to formulate a more credible answer or “fishing” to see how much evidence the police actually have against him/her.

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