Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 683–704 | Cite as

Behavioral Cues to Deception vs. Topic Incriminating Potential in Criminal Confessions

  • Martha Davis
  • Keith A. Markus
  • Stan B. Walters
  • Neal Vorus
  • Brenda Connors


Coding statements of criminal suspects facilitated tests of four hypotheses about differences between behavioral cues to deception and the incriminating potential (IP) of the topic. Information from criminal investigations corroborated the veracity of 337 brief utterances from 28 videotaped confessions. A four-point rating of topic IP measured the degree of potential threat per utterance. Cues discriminating true vs. false comprised word/phrase repeats, speech disfluency spikes, nonverbal overdone, and protracted headshaking. Non-lexical sounds discriminated true vs. false inthe reverse direction. Cues that distinguished IP only comprised speech speed, gesticulation amount, nonverbal animation level, soft weak vocal and “I (or we) just” qualifier. Adding “I don't know” to an answer discriminated both IP and true vs. false. The results supported hypothesis about differentiating deception cues from incriminating potential cues in high-stakes interviews, and suggested that extensive research on distinctions between stress-related cues and cues to deception would improve deception detection.

Key Words

deception nonverbal communication criminal confessions stress 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anolli, L.,& Ciceri, R. (1997). The voice of deception: Vocal strategies of naÏve and able liars. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21, 259–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baldwin, J. (1992). Video taping police interviews with suspects: An evaluation. London: Police Research Series: Home Office Police Department.Google Scholar
  3. Bavelas, J. B., Black, A., Chovil, N.,& Mullett, J. (1990). Equivocal Communication. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Buller, D. B., Burgoon, J. K., White, C. H.,& Ebesu, A. S. (1994). Interpersonal deception VII. Behavioral profiles of falsification, equivocation, and concealment. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 13, 366–395.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, J. (1960). A coefficient of agreement for nominal scales. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 20, 37–46.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G.,& Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied Multiple Regression/Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, 3rd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. Davis, M.,& Hadiks, D. (1995). Demeanor and credibility. Semiotica, 106, 5–54.Google Scholar
  8. Davis, M., Walters, S. B., Vorus, N., Meiland, P. A.,& Markus, K. A. (2000). Verbal and nonverbal cues to false testimony in criminal investigations. Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Convention, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  9. DePaulo, B. M., Kirkendol, S. E., Tang, J.,& O'Brien, T. P. (1989). The motivational impairment effect in the communication of deception: Replications and extensions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 12, 177–201.Google Scholar
  10. DePaulo, B. M., Lindsay, J. J., Malone, B. E., Muhlenbruck, L., Charlton, K.,& Cooper, H. (2003). Cues to deception. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 74–118.Google Scholar
  11. DeTurck, M. A.,& Miller, G. R. (1985). Deception and arousal: Isolating the behavioral correlates of deception. Human Communication Research, 12, 181–201.Google Scholar
  12. Ekman, P. (1988). Lying and nonverbal behavior: Theoretical issues and new findings. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 12, 163–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ekman, P. (1992). Telling Lies. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  14. Ekman, P.,& Friesen, W. V. (1972). Hand movements. Journal of Communication, 22, 353–374.Google Scholar
  15. Ekman, P., Friesen, W. V.,& O'Sullivan, M. (1988). Smiles when lying. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 414–420.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ekman, P., O'Sullivan, M., Friesen, W. V.,& Scherer, K. R. (1991). Invited article: Face, voice, and body in detecting deceit. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 15, 125–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hess, E. H.,& Polt, J. M. (1963). Pupil size in relation to mental activity during simple problem-solving. Science, 140, 1190–1192.Google Scholar
  18. Horvath, F. S., Jayne, B.,& Buckley, J. (1994). Differentiation of truthful and deceptive criminal suspects in behavior analysis interviews. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 39, 793–807.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kasl, S. V.,& Mahl, G. F. (1965). The relationship of disturbances and hesitations in spontaneous speech to anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 425–433.Google Scholar
  20. Knapp, M. L.,& Comadena, M. E. (1979). Telling it like it isn't: A review of theory and research on deceptive communications. Human Communication Research, 5, 270–285.Google Scholar
  21. Kraut, R. E. (1980). Humans as lie detectors: Some second thoughts. Journal of Communication, 30, 209–216.Google Scholar
  22. Landis, J. R.,& Koch, G. G. (1977). A one-way components of variance model for categorical data. Biometrics, 33, 671–679.Google Scholar
  23. Mann, S., Vrij, A.,& Bull, R. (2002). Suspects, lies, and videotapes: An analysis of authentic high stakes liars. Law and Human Behavior, 26, 365–376.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Markus, K. A., Davis, M.,& Walters, S. B. (2004). A behavioral typology of deception in criminal confessions. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  25. Miller, G. R.,& Stiff, J. B. (1993). Deceptive communication. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  26. Porter, S.,& Yuille, J. C. (1996). The language of deceit: An investigation of the verbal clues to deception in the interrogation context. Law and Human Behavior, 20, 443–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sapir, A. (1987). The LIS course on scientific content analysis (SCAN). Phoenix, AZ: Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation.Google Scholar
  28. Shuy, R. W. (1998). The language of confession, interrogation, and deception. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Steller, M.,& Koehnken, G. (1989). Criteria-based statement analysis. In D. C. Raskin (Ed.), Psychological methods in criminal investigation and evidence, (pp. 217–245). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  30. Vrij, A. (2000). Detecting Lies and Deceit. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  31. Vrij, A., Akehurst, L.,& Morris, P. (1997). Individual differences in hand movements during deception. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21, 87–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Vrij, A., Edward, K., Roberts, K. P.,& Bull, R. (2000). Detecting deceit via analysis of verbal and nonverbal behavior. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24, 239–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Vrij, A.,& Mann, S. (2001). Telling and detecting lies in a high-stake situation: the case of a convicted murderer. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 15, 187–203.Google Scholar
  34. Walters, S. B. (1996). Principles of kinesic interview and interrogation, Boca Raton: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  35. Zuckerman, M., DePaulo, B. M.,& Rosenthal, R. (1981). Verbal and nonverbal communication of deception. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. (Vol. 14, pp. 1–59). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martha Davis
    • 1
    • 4
  • Keith A. Markus
    • 1
  • Stan B. Walters
    • 2
  • Neal Vorus
    • 1
  • Brenda Connors
    • 3
  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew York
  2. 2.Stan B. Walters Associates, Inc.VersaillesKentucky
  3. 3.Naval War CollegeNewportRhode Island
  4. 4.Psychology DepartmentJohn Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew York

Personalised recommendations