Concepts of word choice analysis

As with all things in deception detection, context and conservatism are paramount. With the term “actually” it is comparing two thoughts. For instance, you ask your neighbor if he likes blue or yellow because you are thinking of painting your house. His response could be “actually, I like yellow”. He is likely not lying to you, he is comparing liking yellow to blue. It becomes possibly deceptive when the alternative response is unknown. For example, “where were you last night?” Answer: “Actually I was at the game”. We still don’t know if he is lying, but we do know that he is comparing being at the game with something else. Maybe he was at the game, but would have preferred to be elsewhere. Maybe he wasn’t at the game. All we know now is that the question is sensitive and causes him to compare two things, therefore we might want to explore that response more.
What I have found is that qualifiers and convincing statements such as “to be honest”, are considerably less likely to be deceptive if the suspect has already issued a strong denial. For example: “Did you steal the purse?” Answer: “No I didn’t.” Follow up Question: “Are you sure you didn’t steal the purse?” Answer: “Honestly, I didn’t”. At this point, the use of the qualifier “honestly” should not be considered an indication of deception. It is natural for an innocent person, whose initial honest denial was not believed, to resort to qualifiers and convincing statements. I prefer to look for the truthful indicators first. If you are looking only for indicators of deception you may miss important truthful indicators like strong first person, past tense denials (FPPTD).Only in the absence of truth is deception revealed.

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