|The very lovely Dr Elisabeth Carter|
Dr Elisabeth Carter has a BA in psycholinguistics, a Masters in criminology, and a PhD in sociology. WOW. Her recent book Analysing Police Interviews: Laughter, Confession and the Tape won the British Society of Criminology's Criminology book prize 2012.
Last Thursday I went to a Chiltern Writers talk by Elisabeth Carter which was touted as being a must for all crime writers. At the time I confess I was kind of wondering why I was going: there are no police interviews coming up in the Book Which Must Be Finished, time is tight, and the list of Must Be Done Soon is getting ever longer, seemingly by the minute.
I thought the talk was going to be of specific interest to crime writers and not have general application, but I was wrong. Isn't it interesting how sometimes, as if the muse is looking out for you, it seems to send you something when you need it? I've been struggling lately with writing scenes where one character needs to extract information from another, but the latter has things to hide.
Elisabeth's research used forensic linguistics - analysing transcripts of police interviews - to analyse how confessions are elicited, and indicators of deception.
|The book! Academic works are kind of expensive|
but I noticed the Kindle version is much more reasonable
Did you know there are rules of conversation? Things like when somebody asks you a question, answering it within a reasonable space of time. You can try this out: next time somebody asks you something, look back at them without answering. See how long it is before they get uncomfortable, and jump in with why they think you aren't answering, or to retract the question. Rules of conversation are followed in all interactions, even police interviews, and deviations may indicate deception.
How can you tell is someone is lying?
There are three main indicators of deception, all of which operate either cognitively or morally to make it easier to lie, and breach the rules of conversation:
1. Pauses: there is a higher cognitive demand to tell a lie than the truth. Even a half second pause often means what follows is a lie
2. Immaterial responses: such as only answering part of a question, or focusing on an irrelevant aspect of the question.
3. Upgraded responses: something outside the norm in the interaction, such as increasing in pitch, or reducing volume.
Unlike on telly, confessions in police interviews are rare. The key to obtaining confessions is establishing rapport, and there are two ways that have been identified to extract one:
1.Knowledge claims that make it hard to continue a line of deception: such as contrary evidence, or a witness. Knowledge claims can be explicit or implicit.
2. Minimisation: either making what the person has done not seem so bad, or minimising the consequences.
I learned a few others things as well: I'm an absolutely rubbish photographer. And it is really hard to take notes on your phone when you forget to actually take anything useful, like a bit of paper, or even a pen.
Now I'm off to tackle those scenes....let's see if my character can work out when somebody is lying.