WASHINGTON, November 10, 2013 (by Paul A. Samakow) — Susan Constantine might justly be called one of the world’s leading experts in lie detection. Her resume is thoroughly impressive, beginning with where and with whom she trained to the impressive list of many whom have hired her.
Constantine is a formidable presence. She teaches classes, mostly to attorneys looking for an edge in recognizing truth in their clients and witnesses, and she has been sought by legions of others who want to know who is telling the truth and who is not.
Her class is a whirlwind of information that leaves you wanting to drop everything and totally immerse yourself in the learning:
“Everyone lies. There is not one thing you can ever point to that proves it, but you look for many things, after establishing a baseline, including facial micro-expressions, body movement, body position, hand movement, and then you analyze the totality of the circumstances and the individual’s responses.”
“You are looking for incongruent cues; common sense or logical connections; facial expressions matching words spoken; words matching body language; words matching voice.”
“Detecting deception is not intuitive. But it can be learned.”
Constantine has been hired as an analyst and as a jury consultant on many private and public cases that most would term “sensational.” In her class, she uses real life examples, including Casey Anthony, Lance Armstrong, George Zimmerman, Jodi Arias, and Anthony Weiner.
In a courtroom, a witness begins with an oath:
I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
A process of questions and answers follows. Witnesses will normally be expected to be honest to “non-hot” questions such as identifying their name and occupation. Ask a hot question however and the potential for dishonesty skyrockets.
People lie for many reasons. Constantine says those reasons fall into one or more of several categories: loss of freedom; avoiding embarrassment; protecting yourself or others from harm; seeking admiration; maintaining privacy; the thrill of “getting away with it”; avoiding awkward situations; fear of punishment; the maintenance of relationships.
Financial gain or avoiding financial loss might well be included in the list.
The process of expertly detecting deception involves a great deal of study and even more practice. While some things seem obvious, putting together an opinion about someone being deceptive is not easy. In Constantine’s class, students were given some learning about the process and then tested. Few consistently get the examples right.
One particularly instructional test involved watching a video of some athletes in a gym who were wearing either a white or a black shirt. They were passing balls to teammates.
Constantine tells her class to count the number of passes the white team accomplished. Everyone watched intently. Constantine’s students then offered their answers: “eight, ten,fifteen.” Constantine asked if anyone saw the person in the gym wearing the gorilla costume. Upon replay of the tape, clearly, among the athlete ball passers was someone in a gorilla costume walking through all of the balls whizzing around. Very few in the class even saw the gorilla, right there in plain sight. So clear. So obvious. Yet not seen because of a specific focus elsewhere.
Observation is a key element in detecting deception. Consider some of the following observations that might provide clues as to whether someone is trying to be deceptive:
Is the person overly polite; smiling; laughing before or after a statement; defensive; overly calm; overly concerned; attempting to convince rather than convey; vague; delaying or hesitating; overly descriptive; hiding mouth with hand?
A FOX television show that aired from 2009-2011 called Lie To Me featured actor Tim Roth as Dr. Carl Lightman. The show was inspired by a real-life behavioral scientist, training Constantine has taken and gives now. In the show, the “Lightman Group” helped uncover the truth for the FBI, local police, law firms, corporations, and individuals. One of the more interesting facets of the show was seeing facial “micro-expressions” being analyzed to detect deception.
There are seven “universal” facial expressions, according to Constantine, whose authority for this assertion is soundly grounded not only in the literature, but by all leading experts on this subject.
When looking for deception, recognizing facial expressions is the single most important piece of “evidence.”
Everyone’s face reacts and shows fear, anger, disgust, happiness or joy, sadness, surprise and contempt. Constantine beautifully provides ample examples of all during her class.
The class goes beyond providing information allowing students to potentially spot deception or truth. Constantine teaches interview and interrogation methods. By way of example, she teaches the use of “minimal encouraging words.”
Imagine someone telling you a story or answering a question. Most people will default to hiding the “hot” information. When they stop talking, more information can be obtained simply by encouraging them to continue by saying “and,” or “yes,” or “then,” or by asking “really?”
Not every truth telling analysis involves legal procedures or court. Truth in interpersonal relationships is clearly important, particularly with our significant others. Is your intended significant other interested in you?
Greg Behrendt said, “I’m about to make a wild, extreme and severe relationship rule: the word ‘busy’ is a load of crap and is most often used by assholes. The word ‘busy’ is the relationship Weapon of Mass Destruction. It seems like a good excuse, but in fact in every silo you uncover, all you’re going to find is a man who didn’t care enough to call. Remember men are never too busy to get what they want.”
Some of us attorneys recognize when there is truth or deception. While it is important, sadly, it does not always matter.
“To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It’s irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say. The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober.” (Eugene O’Neill, “The Iceman Cometh.”)
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