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Interview and Interrogation Training: Avoid Becoming a Human Lie Detector

This week’s International Association of Interviewers interview and interrogation training tip provided by Wicklander-Zulawski, has Dave Thompson, CFI, discussing the commonly used phrase “human lie detector.”

This is a worrisome phrase. It’s worrisome when people think they can identify truth or deception simply based off somebody brushing lint off their shoulder. It’s important, when you talk about behavior interpretation, and you assess verbal or non-verbal behavior, to know that, yes, we’re looking for changes in behavior. We’re looking for key indicators. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that somebody is guilty or that somebody is lying.

Somebody might brush lint off their shoulder because they have lint on their shoulder. Somebody might look nervous or anxious because they’re fearful of you not believing them. Somebody might look concerned because they’re worried about how long they’ll have to sit in that room–not because they’re guilty. Somebody might show a reaction to something that you say–not because they have anything to lose, but maybe they’re interested in what you’re saying.

- Digital Partner -

It’s important to take all these things into consideration. If you utilize and observe behavior, like anybody does in any conversation, don’t assume guilt, and don’t assume truth or untruth.

It’s most appropriate to use behavior in this way: if you saw some type of reaction to something you said or did, you should ask yourself why. “What did I say that caused that reaction? Maybe I should explore that area further.”

If you explore that area further, you might find out it was nothing. But the last thing you want to do is make any assumption or misclassification about somebody’s behavior. That could lead to interrogating the wrong person, falsely accusing an innocent person, or maybe having a bias or confirmation bias that leads to really erroneous results.

Behavior can be an important tool when we’re communicating with each other. But make sure you’re using it properly.

Every loss prevention investigator should continuously strive to enhance their investigative interviewing skills as part of an ongoing commitment to best-in-class interviewing performance. This includes holding ourselves to an elite standard of interview and interrogation training that is ethical, moral and legal while demanding excellence in the pursuit of the truth. The International Association of Interviewers (IAI) and Wicklander-Zulawski (WZ) provide interview and interrogation training programs and additional guidance to investigators when dealing with dishonest employees, employee theft, sexual harassment, policy violations, building rapport, pre-employment interviewing, lying, denials and obtaining a statement.

LP Solutions

By focusing on the latest information and research from experts in the field as well as academia, legal and psychological resources, these video tips provide interview and interrogation training techniques that can enhance the skill sets of professionals with backgrounds in law enforcement, loss prevention, security, asset protection, human resources, auditors or anyone looking to obtain the truth.

Visit or for additional information.

This post was originally published in 2017 and was updated May 14, 2018. 

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