Truth Detection or Lie Detection - NLP Article

The bottom line in all the NLP-based methods I know for Truth-Detection, is always calibration. Calibration of others, calibration of self. Without stellar calibration skills, these methods simply do not work. And I've found that some people who think they're naturally good at this are, and some are surprisingly horrible. Without a reliable TOTE (test-operate-test-exit) model for identifying/measuring results, it's shooting in the dark for most people. Suspecting a lie is very different from knowing it's truth or not. And some intuitive people have fooled themselves into thinking they're good at it (knowing that SOME are quite accurately intuitive).

The best polygraph examiners come out of the Backster school of Polygraphy. It's an 8-week course costing roughly $4500 not including the equipment one needs. :) And they don't do any of the calibration themselves with their sensory systems -- they let the machine do the calibration, not to mention the test is flawed since it helps the examiner prove what they're looking for, rather than helping the examiner find the truth. The machine also tracks far fewer human behavioral signals than we human beings can & do.

By comparison, the nonverbal calibration skills NLPers have are taught overtly in 1-2 days during NLP Practitioner trainings. (and naturally, they're usually developed over more time than those 1-2 overt days)

The missing piece of the puzzle is the under-estimated skill of asking the right questions in the right way. Polygraph examiners are taught this skill. NLP Practitioners & Master Practitioners that I was trained with, and that I've since trained, get very little time in such a training on that topic. We simply don't have the time in an 8-12 day training to focus on the nature of asking such questions the right way.

There's another 3-day course oriented towards the law-enforcement community, offered by the Reid School of Interrogation. They have a 3-day course on interrogation skills, with a 4th advanced-course single-day add-on for some people. Most of the training is on presenting methods of asking questions. Students get a lot of information, but no significant training time doing any calibration. They have to learn all the rules behaviorally OUTside the training room, in the real world -- which isn't all that useful or effective in my opinion. The course is very useful, don't get me wrong. I just don't think it completes training students in the full required skill set for the skills to actually work the day the training is over. But law enforcement types may not have 1-2 weeks all at once to devote to a training. "Your caseload is waiting, detective..."

So there are three parts to reliably developing the skill, really:

  1. Asking incredibly well-formed questions towards a specific end
  2. Having & Using Phenomenal Calibration Skills (towards both self & others)
  3. Needing the feedback loop of knowing 100% when one's right or wrong.

If you don't know 100% if you're right or wrong, you're NOT improving your truth-detection skills. You have to be able to rely on the test results to have measurable reliable skills-development.

You can improve your calibration skills without those results. You can also improve your questioning ability without those results. But improving your overall integrated truth-detection skills, or lie-detection skills, is shooting in the dark without reliable test answers.

Here's a fascinating story for you. I taught lie-detection skills to a group of people recently in Orlando. A small group; 7 people. We measured everyone's results in the beginning, to know how much they would improve by the end. One person was 90%. One was at 80%. Most were at 50-60%. A couple were at 30%.

We ran through a few truth-detection exercises, and got almost everyone to improve a little. Once they've had the experience, and they tell me what they learned, I can then take them further, since some of the strategies DO work for some, and some only work for others, depending on what their results are and what they're having trouble with along the way.

More feedback cycles, more calibration drills, and they're all moving up towards 85-90%. I guessed that after a few more runs, they'd all be scoring at around 100%.

Imagine my surprise -- when it went in the reverse direction!

They underwent more drills, more exercises, and eventually they all normalized at 70%. All of them, including the "natural" who initially got 90%, was getting 70%.

Why? My guess was, not only were they becoming better truth detectors, they were also becoming better fabricators. They were learning along the way what some of their UNconscious signals were... and giving more of those with their verbal answers, consciously. So their lies became more difficult to detect. Interesting eh?

I guessed that this was the reason, and figured they'd reached a point of diminished returns doing these exercises amongst each other, so I sent them out to do these same exercises with people who had not been doing these exercises.

6 out of 7 of them then got 100%, doing drills with people outside the training.

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