Jackson Yogarajah : ‘You cannot read a liar like a mystery novel and there is no definite way of detecting deception.’
Wednesday April 29, 2009
BODY language expert Jackson Yogarajah believes one can determine if a person is telling the truth by observing and interpreting her or his actions. However, he cautions that “you cannot read a liar like a mystery novel and there is no definite way of detecting deception.”
“But in body language, we know the rules and interpretation, and the psychology of a deceptive person,” said Jackson, who has trained personnel in the Royal Malaysian Police Force as well as other government agencies. He has also trained Customs officers in Indonesia.
He said in body language, a particular action does not have a defined meaning, unlike words. In looking for signs of deception, an investigator needs to look at a cluster of actions rather than base his conclusion on just one action.
“You have to see three or more actions in a pattern,” he said. “Even so, we don’t have a body language expert who can catch a liar 100% of the time. It’s already very good if it’s 80% of the time.”
The cluster or patterns of behaviour are then taken within their context, with an eye on the congruence of actions, whether the behaviours match the words. These are compared with what is known as a person’s baseline behaviour, that is, their natural behaviour in a comfortable environment.
“You talk to him about his family, his school, his work, and develop a comfortable rapport, and you will get to know him and his personality,” said Jackson. “Then you come to the deceptive side of him when you question him. That’s where your questioning techniques come into play, the type of questions you pose, and you see his reaction to them. And you base it on three or four of his actions, not just one. And only then can you reach a decision. But then again, it doesn’t mean you can see that he’s telling the truth for sure, because people can prepare themselves and deceive. There are so many things involved.”
He said neuroscientists have given us a clearer picture of what the unspoken signs and signals mean, that is, how the brain processes non-verbal cues. He feels it is important to teach investigators and interrogators to understand what it means to be human.
“Body language is a part of sociology, psychology, anthropology, psychiatry and human relations,” said Jackson. “So a good understanding of body language helps investigators to avoid, in certain cases, a judgmental attitude.”
Jackson believes in keeping the suspect or interviewee as comfortable as possible, so that his baseline behaviour can be determined.
“And then you can formulate your questions, use them and see the changes in his behaviour. You can compare that with his earlier behaviour. It can help you in making a decision when no other evidence is available,” he said.
“It is not about scaring a suspect or pressuring him,” he added. “It is about making a suspect comfortable, so that the signs would show, and the investigator can make the best possible conclusion.” – By Allan Koay