This is our last post in this series of uncovering the truth. I trust that these posts have been helpful and that you will consider purchasing a copy of Who Done It: Truth and Consequence Guide for Educators.
Deceiving and Misleading
Embedded in the construct of lying are the concepts of deceiving and misleading. Easy put, lying is saying something that is not true or something that is known to be false. Deception or the act of deceiving is using some sort of plot for personal advantage. It is a deliberate intention to mislead.
Misleading is causing someone to have a wrong idea for the impression of something. A student can mislead his teacher by providing just enough information to create a misconception about something. For example, as students enter the classroom after recess and a restroom break, Johnny’s teacher asks, “Johnny, did you wash your hands?” Johnny responds, “Yes, ma’am.” In actuality, Johnny did not wash his hands. However, he had washed them in the morning before coming to school. He misled his teacher, allowing her to think he had washed his hands after coming in from recess. Johnny’s act was misleading and deceptive.
Spotting deception is complicated. One of the reasons is that even a true statement can be deceptive. “This is sometimes called a half-truth, a contextual lie, or a lie by omission. What you’ve said is true but misleading because you’ve left out crucial information, causing the listener to draw a false inference. The listener’s interpretation of your statement depends as much on what you don’t say as on what you do say. So, you can manipulate their interpretation by controlling the flow of information; by omitting a key piece of information.”40
Clues of Deception
Not only can lying and deception be suggested by observing body language, but a person can detect deception from verbal cues. Jack Schaef, a Behavior Analyst for the FBI, says, “Detecting deception using verbal cues remains a difficult task. The best method to predict deception compares what a person says against external evidence or known truth. At best, certain statements can indicate a higher probability of deception, but there’s no one verbal cue that accurately predicts deception.”
Schaef identifies five statements that point to possible deception.
1. “That’s about it.” A deceptive person does not tell the complete story because there’s something they don’t want to disclose.
2. “You can’t prove that.” This response is very revealing. Schaef says, “The word ‘prove’ suggests that evidence exists to verify the supposition or accusation posited, but the speaker failed to discover the hidden proof. Honest people do not think in terms of proof. They know that no evidence exists because they did not do what the speaker accused. Deceptive people know the proof of their deception exists, but the speaker has not yet discovered sufficient evidence to support the accusation.”
3. “Why would I do that?” When a person is honest, they will deny what is being stated. According to Schaef, “Deceptive people are evasive, and when they are caught off guard, they need extra time to think of a believable response. A response like, ‘Why would I do that?’ buys the deceptive person precious time to formulate such a response.”
4. “Are you accusing me?” This type of response intends to place the questioner on the defensive. “This subtle counterattack prompts the accuser to justify their accusations. In doing so, the accused buys time to press a counterattack or prepare a believable story. The simple answer to this question: ‘Yes, I am accusing you, or I would not have brought the topic up in the first place.’ This response parries the counterattack and puts the accused back on the defensive.”
5. “I don’t remember doing that.” Schaef identifies two remembering strategies. He calls these “traps for dissemblers.”
First, you must have an extant memory of the incident to not remember what you did. By definition, you must have initially stored the information in your memory to not remember something. The lack of memory indicates that the person stores the brain’s memory but cannot retrieve it. Truthful people typically respond, “I don’t know.” Lack of memory suggests the person cannot retrieve a memory and does not know what happened. Honest people strive to do anything they can to retrieve the memory of an incident. Deceptive people do not want to reveal remembered information for fear of revealing the truth.
The second trap is similar. A person cannot say, “I don’t remember doing that,” unless the person remembers what they actually did. The word “that” suggests the person did not remember doing a specific set of actions. To say, “I didn’t do that,” the person must know what they did do. Logically, how can a person say they do not remember doing something when they have no memory of the incident? The word “that” suggests a memory of an incident.
The questioner’s response to this maneuver should be, “What do you remember doing?” Schaef says, “Honest people will tell you what they remember doing to support their alibi. Dishonest people usually cling to the lack of memory by saying, ‘I don’t know what I did.’ Here the questioner’s response should be, ‘If you don’t know what you did, it is possible that you did exactly what I described.” Deceptive people do not attempt to retrieve a memory of an action for fear of revealing the truth.
We trust that you have enjoyed this series on Uncovering the Truth. Searching for truth is an everyday occurrence in schools across America and homes. Educators need to know so much more when they attempt to uncover the truth.
Regardless of whether you are a parent, teacher, or administrator, there will be times when you have to deal with the question of “Who Done It?”. We encourage you to get a copy of our new book, “Who Done It? Truth and Consequences Guide for Educators.