Look Beneath the Surface


I came across a Scripture this morning which said; "Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly", which is from John 7:24 (NLT). This got me thinking...this is exactly what we do with investigative statement analysis!

We see or hear the surface structure of what the person says...this is the words, sentences and phrases the person uses to communicate. However, when we "look beneath the surface" we see there is a lot more going on!

There is a deeper structure and meaning to language which is often unseen. This is what caused the person to use the words they chose. As an example, this is a statement from a guy involved in the kidnapping and murder of a 13 year old girl who was found in a lake wrapped in a blanket and chains. He stated during his confession, "Once the bubbles stopped, I dragged her body onto the beach and proceeded to get the blanket and chains from the back of the truck." If someone looks at the "surface" of his language is may seem like he drowned her, put her on the beach, and got the blanket and chains from the truck just like he said. But there is more under the surface which was picked up by an astute detective.

He said he "...proceeded to get the blanket and chains from the truck." Why would he "proceed to do something rather than just do it? Because what he was planning to do was "interrupted" by something he didn't tell us. In this case, when the detective identified this hot spot, he confronted him with a simple question..."Tell us what happened after you brought her onto the beach?" which led to the disclosure that he had sex with her dead body after he killed her! That was great information to have for our case which would have been missed if the detective didn't look beneath the surface of the language.

Investigative Statement Analysis is a powerful tool for anyone conducting investigative interviews or criminal interrogations, or for who needs to know the truth and look beneath the surface of the words!

BELIEF Interviewing Model


The BELIEF Interviewing Model is an investigative interviewing program designed to help investigators gather and assess information from victims, witnesses, informants and suspects. Based upon more than 20 years of law enforcement investigative experience and shaped by current academic research, this method is non-confrontational and very effective sitting face-to-face during interviews or interrogations, whether it is within the context of police investigations, insurance fraud, loss prevention, or human resource investigations. It is also ideal for conducting interviews over the telephone or computer conferencing software where there are no behavioral indicators to focus on, just the person's words. Since truths and lies are told through the words people use, it makes perfect sense to have the narrative be the central focus of an interview program! Words not only carry truths and lies, but they also provide information, which is the goal of any interview...to gather information.

The system is based upon the acronym BELIEF, which stands for:

B: Build Rapport & Baseline
E: Extract Initial Account & Information
L: Listen/Look Attentively
I: Identify Key Elements & Changes
E: Expand Information
F: Follow-Up (ie: corroborate)

The acronym BELIEF reminds us to start every interview with the belief in the person and what they have to say. The benefits of believing the person up front are:

1. It is in alignment with our core values that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
2. It helps eliminate personal bias and gives people the benefit of the doubt.
3. It helps prevent contamination of the interview by eliminating signals of doubt or disbelief coming from the interviewer regarding what the person is telling them.
4. It maximizes verbal content from the individual.
5. Rather than look for deceptive cues, the interviewer focuses more on gathering, developing and testing the information obtained during the interview for veracity.
6. The questioning process is based upon the information provided by the individual being interviewed rather than a scripted interview process, particular steps to follow or a question & answer format.
7. Interviewers assess the content of the individual's account, rather than their own intuitive judgments or beliefs about the person's behavior and/or appearance, which are often false or misleading.
8. It makes it difficult for the interviewee to plan for questions in advance of the interview, since the questions are based upon what the individual says.
9. The unexpected and unpredictable questioning strategy helps break any "mental scripts" the individual has entering the interview process.
10. Allows for the implementation of tactical and strategic use of evidence during the interview, as well as employing cognitive interviewing and investigative statement analysis techniques.

Although we approach each person with BELIEF that they will be truthful, people will always have the choice to tell the truth or lie, so we must never forget that there may be a lie in there somewhere! "BELIEF"

Holding these two beliefs simultaneously may be difficult, but this balancing act will help you be more objective, encourage you to probe and test their account and the information they provide, and will promote the development of greater information through the questioning and testing process.

Maintaining this approach helps the investigator reduce or neutralize what psychologists call confirmation bias, which is the tendency of an individual to search for, interpret, or even recall information from memory in a way that confirms that individual's personal beliefs or assumptions. In essence, our brains try to confirm what they already believe and you end up finding what you are looking for, but you may miss the truth in the process.

While many interview and interrogation programs focus on looking for indicators of deception with the purpose of obtaining a confession, the BELIEF Interviewing program focuses on the narrative and the words the person uses with the purpose of obtaining information. That information is probed and assessed in a way that helps lead the interviewer to the truth!

He Know if You've Been Bad or Good!


Who want's to be like Santa Claus and know if someone has been good or bad? That means if you are assigned to an investigation as a police officer or detective, you will know if the people you talk with are telling the truth or not. If you are an insurance investigator, you will know if their $175,000 dollar claim is fraudulent or not. If you are in human resources you will know who is telling the truth about that sexual harassment complaint or workplace violence investigation. And if you talk with your child about a particular incident or potential drug use, you will know if they are telling you the truth. To know if someone is good or bad (telling the truth or lying/innocent or involved) you need proper training:

Set a solid foundation with effective interviewing skills:

  • BELIEF Interviewing: Develop solid skill-sets with building rapport and establishing baselines; ask effective questions to extract reliable information; look & listen effectively for key details, information and areas to probe; identify topic areas within the narrative; expand the narrative and information through probing questions; and follow up effectively so you know if you have the truth.

Build on your skills:

  • Cognitive Interviewing: Learn effective strategies to enhance memory and extract more accurate and reliable information from victims and witnesses. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of human memory so you can maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. Recognize when information is not coming from memory, thus making it less reliable and potentially deceptive.

Refine and develop your interviewing and assessment abilities:

  • Investigative Statement Analysis; Truth through what they S.A.I.D.: Further your knowledge and skill and learn to gather and assess information from people effectively and distinguish between truthfulness and deception within language whether it’s written such as statements, transcripts, notes and memos, or orally during interviews, interrogations, and 911 calls. You will gain insight into the individuals thought process and obtain a powerful tactical & psychological advantage during interviews and interrogations and reach accurate conclusions relating to the veracity of the information people provide.

Continue to read, learn, train and develop your skill throughout the year and throughout your career, and let us know how we can help you do that!

Honest Contractors? What Language May Tell You


Working recently on updating our rental unit, my wife and I did a lot of the work ourselves, however we also relied on the expertise of some contractors for things out of our limited skill-set. What did their language reveal?
About a week ago I met with one contractor for a small project and he reviewed the job and gave me an estimate on the cost and said he will get back to me in a couple days. I agreed and the job was under way, so I thought. A week or so later I haven't heard anything from him so I called him to check on the status. He sounded surprised and somewhat confused about the job, what it entailed, and who I was. I reminded him of the details of the job and the location and he and said, “Oh, yeah, yeah. Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t think it will get done this week. I had to order some material, I didn’t have enough on hand, and it ships from California.”
My immediate thought was that he forgot about the job. His qualifying language, “to tell you the truth”, tipped me off. Why would he have to qualify his statement? Was he not telling me the truth earlier? Qualifying statements are always something that should catch your attention.
In addition to his use of a qualifying statement, he also fell into the 'well'. He said Well, to tell you the truth…” When someone says, “Well…” we should be on guard because it is often a slight stall while they are formulating a response, and it may represent a “lag before a lie.” For more about WELL, check the related article and click HERE.
He then said, “I had to order some material” which lacks commitment. The reason it lacks commitment is that he does not say he actually ORDERED the material, only that he HAD TO order it. Maybe he forgot to order it and didn’t want to lie and say he actually ordered it, so he told the truth, that he had to order it. Most people will tell the truth; you just have to look for or listen to what they are actually saying.
He also added a lot of additional detail which is unnecessary. The qualifying statement above is unnecessary as well, but also the fact he stated he “didn’t have enough on hand” and that “it ships from California.” Why would I need to know that? Quite often people who lie or are covering up for something will add additional information to try to justify or support their statements. In most cases, the shortest way to say something is the best (and most honest way) to say something. So, if he said something like; “I ordered the material but it hasn’t come in yet” I would not have had any flags raised.
Some confirmation that he DID forget the job was that he called me back about 10 minutes later to get the address and location of the job again "for my paperwork."

Are you Right or Wrong?

right or wrong

During an investigative interview or criminal interrogation, one of the most dangerous positions or mindsets to have is believing you are right when in fact you are wrong. The problem is, when someone has this mindset they don't know they have it because they believe they are right! Only at the end of the investigation, or unfortunately in many cases, 10 or 20 years after conviction, is it clearly evident to the individual that they were wrong.

The time to prevent this from happening is before conducting an interview or interrogation, and it all starts with training. Your training should not be a compilation of pseudoscience on deceptive body language indicators. You know, the so-called experts who "read" people and make blanket statements such as "they are lying because they scratched their head", or "they are lying because they looked away and answered the question" or "they are lying because they crinkled their nose." Are there things people do with their body, face, voice, tone, language etc. that may indicate they are lying? Absolutely. There are also things people do with their body, face, voice, tone, language, etc. that may indicate they are telling the truth as well. How do you tell the difference? With the right training!       

Establishing a solid framework is a crucial component if you want to be effective and proficient when conducting interviews and interrogations. The BELIEF Interviewing model is just that; a solid framework for conducting highly effective interviews and interrogations, not only through establishing a procedural outline but also working on the psychology of the interviewer to prevent the issue of believing you are right when you are wrong!

To learn more about BELIEF Interviewing, click the link above or click HERE and scroll down to the program to see the outline and the benefits of this training!     


Our primary purpose is to enhance the investigator's ability to develop rapport, facilitate communication, extract more accurate information, detect deception and obtain the TRUTH from every investigative inquiry.


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