By Chris Simmons
When a dishonest person is unexpectedly confronted, he/she often panics and parrots back a denial using the same words you just asked. This allows them to answer quickly and thereby (hopefully) appear honest. At a minimum, it buys them time to think while you formulate your follow-on question(s). For example:
Me: “Did you take $20 from my wallet?”
Guilty child: “No, I did not take $20 from your wallet.”
Me (confused): “I could have sworn I had a twenty in there. Do you remember me buying anything yesterday?”
Guilty child: “Not that I recall.”
The above discussion actually contains three classic signs of deception. The guilty child’s first response is a textbook negative parroting of what I’d just asked. Additionally, note that a guilty person tends to avoid using contractions so they can add emphasis to the denial. Statistically, if the person you suspect uses a contraction in their reply, there is actually a 60% chance that they are telling the truth.
Then, when I followed-up up with a simple “yes or no” question, the child avoided a definitive response in favor of a “memory” retort. Such answers are unqualified, allowing the guilty party to amend their reply later by claiming they remembered a relevant fact/detail. Vague and unqualified answers provide liars with the latitude to verbally escape. The more precise the answer, the more they are boxed-in to a specific storyline.