Deception Detection In Non Verbals And Linguistics

Lessons From The Poker Table --Spot The Liar In The Real World.



I have been playing small stakes poker for a few years now, with the original intent to study the cues and tells that come from bluffing to see if I could translate generic observations from the poker table into real world deception detection.

Reading about a police interview technique developed by Professor R.E Geiselman of UCLA, an expert in detecting lies, gave me my first clue:

"When asked if they want to add anything, deceptive people tend to say NO quickly whereas truthful people either go ahead and add something new or they at least think about it before saying NO."

It occurred to me that a speeding up and slowing down behaviour translated directly into a specific bluffing scenario that went like this:

1 -- If you are strong, but bluffing to be weak, what do you do? You look at your cards and then your chips and pretend to think whether you are going to increase your bet. You stall.

2 -- If you are weak but bluffing to be strong, what do you do? You don't hesitate, you move your chips out quickly.

This poker table analogy holds directly in a real world scenario: People who move or act too quickly (quicker than their baseline!) are potentially deceptive or lacking confidence. It's a red flag moment at the table and it's a red flag moment in the real world too. Off course, this means you need a baseline, a situation where some small talk has taken place prior and where you have had an opportunity to gauge behaviour.

Something else I noted on the poker table was that people who I thought were bluffing seemed to be slightly more friendly, or polite at that point, as if not wanting to antagonise other players or draw attention to themselves.

Frank Enos from Columbia University in his thesis says:
"Preliminary findings suggested that pleasantness is the most promising factor in predicting deception..."

As expected, there is an overlap from poker table to real world scenarios making it a great laboratory to study human behaviour, it's just a matter of paying attention.

How to Get your Message Out With Clinton's Media Strategist Idea.


An effective linguistic technique to get your messages out comes from Bill Clinton's media strategist  in Clinton's book Behind The Oval Office.

Clinton was frustrated by the fact that he had created millions of jobs and cut the deficit, but it went largely unnoticed and unaccredited.

His Media Stategist Bob Squier suggested that two messages be combined creating a presupposition for one of the messages. The idea, said Squier, was to talk about the jobs that had been created while also talking about what you are going to do.

Squier continued, "For example, the seven million jobs we've created won't be much use if we can't find educated people to fill them. That's why we want a tax deduction for college tuition to help kids go to college to take those jobs."

This turned out to be very effective and works because it assumes or presupposes that part of the message is a fact.

Lets say you want to get the message out:
1 -- This is the worlds safest car.
2 -- Now you can afford it.

Putting both premises across individually will allow some one dispute both messages.
By combining the two messages into one such as:

Now you can afford the world's safest car.

If you disagree with this message, you are disagreeing about the fact that you can afford the car, not that it is the worlds safest car, because the safety aspect is now assumed or presupposed.

In fact this technique has been used by advertisers and politicians for a long time and it's been shown to be an effective way to get a message out because in our busy daily life we assume presuppositions are correct to save ourselves cognitive processing time.

Millers Law And Lochte's "Apology".


Twenty four hours after deconstructing Ryan Lochte's lie in my last post, the U.S swimmers admit they lied about the robbery after they trashed a service station.

Lochte issued an apology -- sort of.

"I wanted to apologize for my behavior last weekend -- for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics," he said Friday on Instagram.

As in lie detection where you need to listen really very carefully to what is said without putting your own interpretation on it, the same thing applies to listening to an apology.

What he probably means is he regrets the lack of care in telling his lie which made it so easy to deconstruct.

Millers Law by Princeton Professor George Miller instructs us to suspend judgement and not put your own interpretation on something that someone says.

The law states --
"To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of."

This is a way of stopping you from making a snap judgement and interpreting what someone is saying using your own internal "dictionary", because very often they are using their own different internal "dictionary".

Deception Analysis Of Ryan Lochte’s Robbery Account



I've been analysing police criminal statements to determine verbal/written cues for a quite few years now, with the view to developing automated software to red flag statement inconsistencies and deception.


It turns out that there is evidence that liars tend to tell a less coherent story, items are more likely to be out of sequence, they are less likely to include conversations or sensory details such as what something smelled or looked like, and there are more likely to be contradictions, and so on.


My interest was peaked in the controversy arising from the reported robbery in Rio of 4 U.S swimmers, and that fact that the judge said that there are inconsistencies between the swimmers statements.

I decided to have a look at Ryan Lochte’s statement if I could find a direct quote.
This is what Lochte said on NBC Today:

We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge,
police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over.

They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground —
they got down on the ground.

I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so —
I'm not getting down on the ground.

And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said,
'Get down,' and I put my hands up, I was like 'whatever.' 

He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”


Looking at some of the most interesting parts of the statement, Lochte starts of with we
got pulled over, and then ends the sentence with an out of sequence “they pulled us over” after telling us what he didn't see.

When most people are asked an open question, they describe what happened, not what didn’t happen.
Saying what didn’t happen in response to an open question is called a spontaneous negation by FBI agent John Schafer in his book and is a red flag in deception.

“....they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground...”

Lochte didn’t say “they told us to get down on the ground”, he said the “other swimmers” were told this. He is isolating himself from the group. It’s no longer we and us.

It seems Lochte is still standing around, with attitude to boot (“I’m not getting on the ground”)
When a gun is pointed to his forehead and he is told to get down, after the other swimmers were told to get down and which they did, at this point he puts his hands up.

Then some interesting bits: “And then the guy pulled out his gun....”

1 –“Then” indicates that some time had passed, perhaps something is being skipped over.

2 – “the” is out of context. “And then the guy pulled out his gun, and cocked it...” by using the in this manner it indicates that the gunman is previously known.

3 – The most obvious glaring problem is that the guns were already out in the earlier part, but now we are being told “then the guy pulled out his gun”.

4 – The gunman tells him to get down and then he puts up his hands.

5 – Lochte portrays himself as a hero by being dismissive towards the gunman with the “whatever” attitude.

6 – “He took our money, he took my wallet..”
It wasn’t they took our wallets. Lochte is treated differently again, with his wallet being taken by the single gunman, while the others had there money taken.

This statement is riddled with inconsistencies and red flags and appears very deceptive.

It would seem something else happened that is being covered up with this “robbery”.
Lochte never told the police about the robbery, he sent a text message to his mother afterwards who was also in Rio.

Only when media reports came out via his mother did police get Lochte and another swimmer Feigen in to make statements. Reportedly Lochte’s statement said there was only one gunman involved while Feigens statement said there were several gunmen but only one was armed.

Media report:
Judge Blanc De Cnop noted that Lochte had said a single robber approached
the athletes and demanded all their money (400 real, or $124).

Feigen's statement said a number of robbers targeted the athletes
but only one was armed, the statement said. Another potential issue
highlighted by judge was the behavior of the athletes on arrival at the
Olympic Village in the aftermath."



Lochte’s mother played it down, saying,” They just took their wallets and basically that was it.”

Looking at Lochte’s statement on NBC, there are many red flags raised, but bringing all the other media reports into the mix lifts this to another level. 

I think this whole episode was best summed up by local television new announcer Mariana Godoy --

"So the American swimmer lied about the robbery?  He went from one party to another party and didn't want to tell his Mommy about it?"
© ElasticTruth

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