To Believe or Not to Believe…How do you know when someone is telling you the TRUTH or when someone just told you a whopping LIE? Part of you wants to believe what you just heard…but, yet another part of you feels like you just heard a ‘bunch of baloney!’ How can you really be sure?
To help us get closer to the TRUTH, Dr. David Craig, the author of the book, Detect Deceit, offers MAGIC…a 5 stage model to improve the accuracy and reliability of detecting deception.
M = Motivation
A = Ask Control Questions
G = Guilt Questions
I = Indicators
C = Check again…investigate the evidence
The driving force in the whole equation is Motivation! Liars know that their escape from punishment or their “reward” involves their motivation to convince others of the deceptive story or explanation. The extent of the liar’s deceptive effort is proportional to what is perceived to be at stake, or what is in it for the liar if the lie is believed. The greater the punishment or reward, the greater the incentive it is for some people to lie. Therefore, it is important to assess the potential motivation the individual might have to not be completely truthful.
But, it takes two to TANGO! Deception involves at least 2 people. Liars can only get away with it if they find others willing to BELIEVE the lies. So we need to be aware of our own motivation, biases, perceptions, assumptions, and blindspots of wanting to believe what is being told to us and possibly ignoring evidence to the contrary. What is at stake and the punishment or reward involves both the liar and the other(s) on the receiving end.
A = Ask Control Questions involves noticing how the person behaves after being asked neutral, non-threatening questions. The goal is to establish normal baseline measures of the individual’s behaviors. For instance, in polygraph questioning, the person is asked his/her name, address, known facts in order to establish baseline levels. Pay attention to behaviors that the person does within this observation period and during this line of questioning. For example, does the person normally have a twitch in their eye, finger, leg, etc? Notice the rate of speed, pitch, volume, tone of voice. Observe his/her verbal and nonverbal responses to questions that you already know the answers. Take into account the person’s individual mannerism, personality traits, and behaviors. Have a good feel for how the person usually acts or responds in order to notice any deviations from these baseline behaviors.
G = Guilt Questions: After establishing a good foundation, then ask sensitive topic-related questions in which the person has to decide to be truthful or not truthful in answering. These questions may be perceived as probing, imposing, and threatening to someone who has something to hide and does not want the truth to come out because it may be incriminating. It takes practice and skill to ask these questions in a subtle, conversational, way in order to get the information that you need without alerting the person of how much you know, suspect, or how much evidence you may already have.
During this phase of questioning, the interviewer is observing any change or deviations in responses and behaviors within 5 seconds of the stimulus question(s). How does the individual act now during the Guilt Questioning phase compared to behaviors during Control Baseline questioning? Notice verbal and nonverbal communication patterns or changes (e.g., eye contact, blink rate, movements anywhere in the body, shifting of items to block or distance oneself from the interviewer, non-answers, repeating the question, defensiveness or verbally attacking behaviors, changing the subject to divert attention, invoking religion to create halo effect, etc). These are RED-Flags to indicate areas where you should investigate deeper. Be aware that honest people may demonstrate defensive changes in their behaviors because they may feel anxious, distressed, nervous, or attacked.
I = Indicators: Looking for potential clusters of deception within 5 seconds of the stimulus question(s). A single deceptive clue is not enough to determine honesty or dishonesty. Body language analysis involves being actively listening and observing in order to: (1) catch potential verbal and nonverbal clusters of deception indicators; and (2) investigate further.
C = Check again: In this phase, you are investigating deeper in the areas of questioning that resulted in the clusters of potential indicators to uncover more meaningful information and potential evidence. It is important to remain rational, logical, and open-minded and let the supporting evidence lead you in an accurate direction towards the truth, or uncovering the lies.
The MAGIC model may appear simple, but it takes continuous practice of active observation and learning body language analysis, detecting deception, and interrogatory skills to improve the likelihood of uncovering the lies and moving towards the truth.
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Craig, D. (2012). Detect deceit: How to become a human lie detector in under 60 minutes. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.