I am often asked about detection of deception and the type of analysis applied to the written and spoken word to make determinations as to whether someone may be being economical with the truth. When this question has come it is often accompanied by a request for an example of the analysis, and so I have decided to post an analysis performed by friends and colleagues at QVerity, Don Tennant and Phil Houston. Don is both an excellent writer and analyst with extensive experience in the QVerity methodology and Phil is one of the designers of the methodology.
Before I present Don and Phil's analysis however, I want to add that for over twenty years I have studied influence, persuasion and deception in an effort to more fully understand why people say and do the things they do, and to understand the true meaning behind what people say and the way they act. There are, of course, both verbal and non-verbal indicators for deception. One can look for verbal indicators even in a transcript of a statement or an interview. Again, I must stress these are indicators that impress on the trained person the need to dig deeper. Regardless of what some hucksters claim by way of abilities, there are no human lie detectors.
All of this brings me to the ongoing saga of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY 9th) who has recently been in the news because a picture of a man's groin, covered by gray underpants, was "tweeted" from his account to a young lady across the country. I know there will be people who will say this is a partisan hit blog and there are lots of examples of deception on both sides of the aisle; I agree. But, this is the most current and the interview is a great example for demonstrating our model as it is filled with indicators; this allows us to demonstrate how the model is applied to a transcript of an interview to pick up on verbal indicators.
While this controversy, and his name (truly unfortunate given the nature of the picture), will doubtless be fodder for many late night comedians, I will have no truck with gutter humor. Rather, I will be "brief" in my remarks and leave it for others to "drawer", I mean draw, their own conclusions.
Here is Don and Phil's analysis of the recent interview with Weiner that they, and my other partners at QVerity feel indicate the need for much more in depth investigation as this event may be only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The italics after the Congressman's statements show the deceptive indicators in those statements that may lead some to question whether the Representative took "briefing" his Twitter friends too far!----
A group of journalists on May 31 asked Rep. Anthony Weiner a range of questions about his claim that a lewd photo sent to a young woman from his Twitter account was the result of someone hacking into his account. During the exchange, which occurred outside his Capitol Hill office, Weiner exhibited a series of deceptive behaviors that strongly indicate not only that he is being untruthful about this particular matter, but that there is likely much more to the story as it relates to this type of behavior on his part.
The high volume of attack behaviors exhibited by Weiner (identified below) illustrates his enormously high level of concern, especially when these attacks are made in lieu of answering very direct questions. This level of concern, coupled with his failure to answer any of the questions posed to him, suggests that Weiner finds himself in a very difficult situation. His behavior clearly suggests that he has no facts or information that he wishes to discuss publicly on this matter. Those behaviors also indicate that he would rather appear to be obvious in his deception than to let any tidbit of information about his conduct in this area slip out.
When one considers the high value that politicians place on their reputations, it is safe to assume that they would only risk their reputations on something of monumental importance. What is it that is so monumental that Weiner is risking his reputation to hide? In his responses, Weiner conveys several unintended messages with phrases like “all I can tell you,” which suggest that he is concealing behavior that he doesn’t want to talk about.
His behavior suggests it is likely much more than tweeting a single lewd photo to a female college student. Based on our analysis the media would be well served if they were to investigate further. It could be that he is trying to conceal a pattern of this type of behavior, or other behavior of a lascivious nature that a married man should not be engaging in. His behavior also strongly suggests that this is not the only photo of this type that has been taken or sent by Weiner. It would not be surprising to see the “Tiger Woods Phenomenon” unfold here, where other young ladies come out of the woodwork with similar stories.
The most persistent questioners in the May 31 exchange were Dana Bash, CNN senior congressional correspondent; and Ted Barrett, CNN senior congressional producer. The main thrust of their questioning was an effort to determine why, since he was alleging that his account was criminally hacked, Weiner had not called upon law enforcement authorities to investigate the matter; and whether he was the one who sent the lewd photo. A transcript of the engagement, annotated with deceptive behaviors, follows:
Bash: Congressman, can you just answer point blank? You say that you were hacked, which is potentially a crime. So why haven’t you asked the Capitol Police or any law enforcement to investigate?
Weiner: Look, this was a prank that I’ve now been talking about for a couple of days. I’m not going to allow it to decide what I talk about for the next week or the next two weeks, and so I’m not going to give you anything more about that today. I think I’ve been pretty responsive to you in the past. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer the question; refusal to answer the question; referral statement (“I think I’ve been pretty responsive to you in the past”) attempts to build credibility through repetition; two restrictive qualifiers (“I think” and “pretty”).]
Bash: But with respect, you’re here, which we appreciate, but you’re not answering the questions. Can you just say why you haven’t asked law enforcement to investigate what you are alleging is a crime?
Weiner: You know, Dana, if I was giving a speech to 45,000 people and someone in the back of the room threw a pie or yelled out an insult, would I spend the next two hours responding to that? No. I would get back … [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer the question; non-answer statements; asked an inappropriate/disconnected question.]
Barrett (interrupting): This is not that situation.
Weiner: You want to do the briefing? [Deceptive behavior: Attacking the questioner.]
Barrett: You said from your Twitter account a lewd photo was sent to a college student. Answer the question. Was it from you or not?
Weiner: Sir, permit me to … do you guys want me to finish my answer? [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; non-answer statement; inappropriate level of politeness (“Sir”); attacking behavior (his question intimates they are being rude and acting inappropriately toward him).]
Barrett: Yes, this answer. Did you send it or not?
Weiner: OK. If I were giving a speech to 45,000 people and someone in the back threw a pie or yelled out an insult, I would not spend the next two hours of my speech responding to that pie or that insult. I would return to the things that I want to talk about to the audience that I want to talk to, and that is what I intend to do this week. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; non-answer statements. There is also an unintended message drawn from his statement, “I would return to things that I want to talk about.” Weiner is acknowledging that he doesn’t want to talk about this issue (to include responding to reasonable questions).]
Barrett: All you would have to do is say “no.”
Bash: Let me try this question: The woman who allegedly got this tweet, or it was directed to, a 21-year-old college student in Seattle, she released a statement to the New York Daily News yesterday saying you follow her on Twitter. Is that true? Did you follow her on Twitter? And if so, how did you find her? What was the reason?
Weiner: You know, I have, I think, said this a couple of ways, and I’ll say it again. I am not going to permit myself to be distracted by this issue any longer. [Deceptive behaviors: Refusal to answer; referral statement; non-answer statement.]
Barrett: All you have to do is say “no” to that question.
Weiner: You are free … why don’t you let me do the answers and you do the questions? [Deceptive behavior: Attacking the questioner.]
Barrett: If you would answer the question asked you, sir, we will.
Unidentified reporter: You follow an awful lot of young women on Twitter. Is there a reason you have so many ladies that you’re following?
Weiner: By the way, in related news, I have in the famous hashtag “ScrappyChasingCrazy” I passed Michele Bachmann today in the number of Twitter followers. I will give you that additional fact. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; non-answer statements; inappropriate level of concern (comical response).]
Bash: You can understand what’s going on here, the frustration. We appreciate you coming out here talking to us – you’re smiling, you’re cooperating, and that’s good offense. But you’re not answering the questions …
Weiner: This is now Day 3. You have statements that my office has put out. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; non-answer statement; referral statement.]
Bash: But they don’t answer the questions …
Weiner: There are statements that my office put out and there are going to be people who are going to want … look, this is the tactic. The guy in the back of the room who’s throwing the pie or yelling out the insult wants that to be the conversation. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; referral statement; convincing statement (a statement designed to manipulate our perception through influence rather than to convey information), claiming that he’s the victim of a “tactic.”]
Bash: But you’re the one who said you were hacked …
Weiner: Dana, let me … I have to ask that we follow some rules here, and one of them is going to be you ask the questions and I give the answers. Does that seem reasonable? [Deceptive behavior: Inappropriate level of politeness.]
Bash: I’d love to get an answer.
Weiner: That would be reasonable…
Barrett: Direct answer.
Weiner: That would be reasonable. You do the questions, I do the answers and this jackass [referring to Barrett] interrupts me. How about that as the new rule of the game? Let me just give the answer. The objective of the person who is doing the mischief is to try to distract me from what I’m doing. So for the last couple of days that has happened. I’ve made a decision. I’m not going to let it happen today. I’m not going to let it happen tomorrow. You’re doing your job, I understand it. Just go ahead and do it, but you’re going to have to do it without me, every day, answering questions about this. Today I want to talk about the debt limit vote. This debt limit vote tonight is a very important … [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; attacking the questioner; non-answer statements; convincing statements (intended to convince us that he’s just trying to do his job).]
Barrett: Congressman, why haven’t you asked the police to investigate this? Why did you not ask the police to investigate this? Is it because you don’t want them to find out what the answer is?
Weiner: Let me make a point about the debt limit. You know, we are tonight at 6:30, 6:45, going to be casting a vote on something that has monumental importance to our economy, whether or not we have a stunt vote on something as important as the debt limit. I want to focus what I talk about on that. I want to focus what I’m working on, on that. I want to focus on that because frankly, I think my constituents want me to, and I think that frankly, the country would want me to. So that’s what I’m going to do. You don’t have to. You can continue doing whatever you want to do. But I am not going to allow this thing to dominate what I talk about any further. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; refusal to answer; non-answer statements; perception qualifiers (two instances of the word “frankly”); convincing statements (all he wants to do is serve his constituents and the country).]
Bash: In the statements you put out, you said that you were hacked. It’s sort of a logical question that we really wish that you would answer. Why, if you were the victim of a crime …
Weiner: You’ve got to refer to my statements. You’ve got to refer to my statements. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; referral statements.]
Bash: The statements don’t answer the question. If they did, we’d be happy to. The statements don’t answer the question.
Weiner: All I can tell you is I put out statements the last couple of days, responding to everyone saying, “This is the last question we’re going to ask.” And in fact, it’s pretty clear that by your presence here, some people have been successful in making the conversation about something I simply choose not to participate in anymore. You can feel free to still cover it. … [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; referral statements; non-answer statements. There is also an unintended message: “All I can tell you” is a restrictive qualifier that suggests he has information he cannot tell us.]
Barrett (interrupting): Congressman, you would deny this … you would answer directly …
Weiner: You can be here, and you can feel free to stay here and ask me again. But you know, we have a situation where across the way is the Supreme Court, that Justice Clarence Thomas, his household received over $800,000 of remuneration from people that are trying to overturn the health care law, trying to stop it, and yet he’s refusing to recuse himself. I think that’s pretty important. That’s an important thing that I’m going to devote my energies to, and those are the things I’m going to talk about. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; non-answer statements; convincing statements (he’s devoting his energies to serving the cause of justice).]
Unidentified Reporter: Your statement did say that you did retain a lawyer, so what are you directing your attorney to do on your behalf? Ask for an investigation?
Weiner: I think the statement speaks to that. It says they are going to advise us on appropriate next steps. … I would refer you back to the statement and read it in its entirety. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; referral statement.]
Barret: Who is the attorney?
Weiner: Are there any other questions? Look, there are people who are going to want to try to distract from the work that I have to do. There are. There are going to be people who are going to want to have this debate. And to some degree, the people that are engaging it are zealous to do it. Why? But I don’t want to. I choose to fight for the things that I care about, and the things that I’m working on. Look, can I tell you something? I know this is how the game is played. Some people decide they want to talk about this thing for days and days. I choose not to. That’s my prerogative. I’m sorry. Sorry. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; non-answer statements; inappropriate level of politeness (being apologetic); attacking behavior (“there are people who are going to want to try to distract”).]
Bash: Can I just throw this out there though? If this is the non-story that you say this is, and a distraction …
Weiner (interrupting): I didn’t characterize it … I characterized it as a distraction. I’ll leave it to you to make the decision of whether it’s a story.
Bash: If you think this is just a distraction, you’re a sophisticated guy. Why not just answer the questions, and then you’ll be done with it?
Weiner: I’ve been doing that for several days. Now I choose … there are people who apparently haven’t read the statements. I assume that you have. Look, all I can tell you is this: This is akin to someone deciding on Day 3 or Day 4 they want to continue talking about something that I consider a distraction, and me making a decision on how I’m going to deal with this. And the decision I have made is I’m not going to permit it to distract me. I’m not going to permit it to continue on for three, four, five or six more days. If that’s unsatisfactory to you, I apologize. But I think that what people really want to talk about are things like the debt limit vote tonight. Things like the oppressive disparity between the very well-to-do in this country and people that don’t have as much. Or the fact that it’s more and more difficult being in the middle class in this country. That’s what I’m here to work on. Thank you guys. [Deceptive behaviors: Failure to answer; refusal to answer; referral statement; non-answer statements; inappropriate level of politeness (apologizing); restrictive qualifier (“all I can tell you” sends the unintended message that there is more he can’t tell us); attacking behavior (“there are people who apparently haven’t read the statements” and “This is akin to someone deciding on Day 3 or Day 4 they want to continue talking about something I consider a distraction”); convincing statements (he’s championing the fight against social problems like the disparity between rich and poor).]