In a Ted-ed talk video titled “The Language of Lying,” Noah Zandan describes several indicators that are the red flags for when someone is lying. Mr. Zandan’s background is published on the Rockway Foundation website: “Noah is currently the Founder and President of a communications analytics startup called Quantified Impressions, has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where he studied Economics.”
In the Ted-Ed presentation he describes a technology for identifying lies called, Linguistic Text Analysis. This technique has shown that people phrase things differently when they fabricate stories.
He explains that people generally lie to make themselves look better or to appear like someone whom they wish to be. The reasoning is that when people create these false stories about themselves, they are using parts of the brain which are not utilized when telling the truth. It takes more work for the brain to conceptualize a new version of events. When the brain creates this new version, it relies on the subconscious mind.
Since the human brain functions on about 95 per cent subconscious processes, the way people express themselves linguistically when they are weaving whoppers shows distinct, involuntary earmarks. As a result, human language lean towards four general forms of expression when fabricating stories.
When liars wallow in into the murky waters of fantastical narratives, the way they dish out their defense is noticeably different from the way honest people express themselves.
Zandan explains in the Ted-Ed video,
“According to the literature on ‘reality monitoring‘ stories based on imagined experiences are qualitatively different from those based on real experiences. This suggests that creating a false story about a personal topic takes work and results in a different pattern of language use.”
Zandan outlines four common ‘patterns in the subconscious language of deception‘ to listen for when someone is lying:
- Liars reference themselves less when making deceptive statements. They write or talk about others and more often use the 3rd person (he, she, it, they) when making statements to distance themselves for their lies. Ex. “Absolutely no party took place at this house.” vs “I didn’t host a party here.”
- Liars tend to be more negative in statements in most cases because on a subconscious level they feel guilty about lying. [If they are not psychopaths who don’t experience guilt or remorse.] Ex. “Sorry, my stupid phone battery died. I hate that thing.”
- Liars tend to explain things in simple terms since according to Zandan, “Our brains struggle to build a complex lie.” Ex. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”- Bill Clinton. and
- Even though liars keep descriptions simple they tend to use longer and more convoluted sentence structure” explains Zandan. “I can say categorically that this investigation indicates that no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.” Richard Nixon.
Throughout the seven year saga of the murder case of Meredith Kercher, one of the three murder suspects, Amanda Knox, has been known to express herself in rather peculiar ways when discussing her involvement in the crime. Knox was originally convicted of killing Meredith Kercher in 2009.
After she published her memoir about Meredith Kercher’s murder, Knox decided to give interviews. In May 2013 Knox sat down with Diane Sawyer who asked her some direct questions. This was the first time the public heard Knox speak about the case. Unfortunately for Knox, the way she answered questions about the murder made her look more guilty.
Analyzing Knox’s answers with the four patterns of deception in mind may shed some light on whether Amanda Knox lied or not.
Knox began the interview saying,
“For all intents and purposes, I was a murderer. Whether I was or not.”
This statement raised the eyebrows of many watchers. Instead of simply stating that she didn’t do it and was innocent. Knox actually called herself a murderer! Knox distances herself from this statement. Instead of saying, “I didn’t do it,” she gives a general phrase which fits No. 1 pattern of deception. The negative form of expression fits No. 2 pattern while the convoluted phrasing would fit the fourth pattern of deception.
Sawyer asked Knox what the first thing she would like people to know about her. Knox mysteriously said,
“I want the truth to come out. I’d like to be reconsidered as a person.”
This dissociation of herself from a question directly about herself fits the first pattern of deception. Simple phrasing fits the third pattern while the confusing way of answering the question fits pattern No. 4.
Then Knox was interviewed by Chris Cuomo who asked her some direct questions which Knox evaded. When Cuomo asked her about her strange behavior after the discovery of Meredith Kercher’s body, Knox again showed patterns of deception:
Cuomo: ” . . . it’s not just one thing right? There is the kissing, there is the split, there is the repeated nonchalance [Knox exhibited right after the murder] . .”
Knox completely ignores the question to begin an apparently rehearsed story about how she went to Italy as a young person, she was a “young 20-year-old, sheltered and inexperienced” . .on and on. Then she went on to disassociate further from the original question by drawing attention to the fact that her initial reaction to Meredith Kercher’s death was that “it could have been me!” This prolonged response shows No.3 and 4 of explaining a simple story with extraneous details. Since she avoided answering the question that Cuomo presented all together, as she seems to do with any direct questions regarding her suspicious behavior during the investigation of Meredith Kercher’s death, the first two patterns are also applicable.
Then Knox gave another interview with Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone in 2014. Hattenstone asked Knox what two facts she could give that would prove it was impossible that she killed Meredith Kercher. Knox replied that the first proof of innocence was simply that she wouldn’t do anything like that. She also said that she considered Meredith a friend [in Cuomo interview she said that she and Meredith were ‘becoming friends’ not that they ‘were friends’] and alleged to have no criminal record. Secondly, Knox said,”There is no trace of me in that room.” In these two answers Knox was distancing herself (No. 1 pattern) from the crime again. She uses negative statements (No.2) and she gives simple responses embellished with extra details (No.3 & 4.) Knox does not elaborate how or why either of these statements could prove that it was impossible for her to be guilty since they don’t prove anything except subconscious patterns of deception.
As Amanda Knox said herself in the interview she gave the Guardian,
“Journalists . . say the argument, ‘With this complicated case you are never going to know what the truth is, no one is ever going to know what the truth is and doesn’t that bother you?’ I’m like, ‘Well [no] I think you can see what the truth is if you really want to see it,'”