Magazine article Security Management

Getting the Word on Deception

Magazine article Security Management

Getting the Word on Deception

Article excerpt

Hiring good employees is one of the major responsibilities - and challenges - that any manager faces. Determining a candidate's skills is hard enough, but evaluating intangible qualities such as integrity is even more difficult. Because interviewees are practiced at presenting an attractive persona, managers must be equally adept at discovering what lies beneath that public image. One possible tool at their disposal is a technique known as Scientific Content Analysis (SCAN), developed by Avinoam Sapir of the Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation in Phoenix, Arizona. It is also referred to as statement analysis or investigative discourse analysis.

A manager familiar with this process might more easily detect deceptive behavior during interviews of all types. For example, statement analysis helps interviewers determine whether an applicant is omitting information on a resume, inflating credentials, or telling half-truths about previous employment.

To use SCAN, or statement analysis, employers analyze an applicant's words to obtain clues illustrate where the questioning should be focused. For example, a change from fast person to second person or a change in tense could indicate deception and allow the employer to focus on that topic. It should be noted, however, that no independent scientific studies of the process have been conducted to examine success rates compared to other methods, such as polygraph tests.

Statement analysis does not depend on any nonverbal indicators of truthfulness or other traditional means of detection. These words can be obtained in the form of a verbal statement, a face-to-face interview, a telephone call, or a written narrative. The statements can then be analyzed by the interviewer to determine whether deception is present. The interviewer does not make a judgment on any one word or phrase but looks instead at multiple signs of circumvention.

Deception can be classified as either concealment or falsifying. To falsify, a deceptive subject will lie - concoct a bogus story - to cover wrongdoing. However, most people do not falsify statements. They simply fail to tell the whole truth.

To lie involves more stress and requires a good memory to repeat the lie. Concealment is much simpler. It uses devices such as leaving out facts and critical information, not answering the question directly, and changing the subject. By using concealment, an interviewee can give a statement that is true, but deceptive. For example, in a typical employment interview, the employer might ask an applicant for information about his or her last job. The interviewee might say: "I started my job in June 1993. I worked as a bookkeeper. I enjoyed my job and received good evaluations. I had a disagreement with the boss, so I quit."

The shift from specific to general information and the abrupt ending are indicators of deception. The statement could be true but might also be a deceptive way to avoid disclosing the real reason for leaving - the employee was caught stealing, for example.

A truthful statement would begin the same way, with specific statements about the nature of the job, but the truthful statement will continue to be specific. For example, the applicant might say, "I worked for John Smith. One day he made a statement that I felt was offensive. I told him I thought his remark was inappropriate. However, his behavior continued. I am good at my job, and do not want to be harassed, so I resigned."

Candidates can be asked to provide information under many different circumstances. For example, an employer may leave the interviewee in a room with time to write answers. Obtaining information in this way is less threatening than the direct question approach. It invites the person to write freely and reveals what is important to the applicant.

It does not matter whether information is solicited in person, over the phone, or by mailed questionnaire as long as it is written or recorded. …

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