By Chris Simmons
At some point, many of us have found ourselves in a situation where something has been broken or stolen and we need to determine who did it. In earlier posts, we’ve addressed the forensics of true and false statements, as well as the importance of nonverbal communication. That said, certain exceptions exist within these fields of practice.
One of these exceptions is guilty comments. Inevitably, this response will fall into one of three categories: undue interest, unnatural acceptance, or the exaggerated redundancy.
In the first situation, an honest person is not interested in the forthcoming punishment, because it doesn’t impact them. As such, any interest in the punitive outcome is undue since responsibility has not yet been determined.
An unnatural acceptance occurs when a person takes responsibility for an act they insist they did NOT do. A guilty party is looking for a way out (an “exit strategy”) and so it does not occur to him/her that an innocent person will generally not confess to an act they didn’t commit. Note: This response does not apply to persons with diminished mental capacities, who have been known to confess to acts in which they had no role.
The third response, the exaggerated redundancy, is simply an overstated denial reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s famous “I am not a crook” speech.
Examples of the four “guilty comments” are:
1. “What will happen to the person…” [undue interest]
2. “I didn’t do it, but if you want, I’ll say I did…” [unnatural acceptance]
3. “I didn’t do it, but I’d be willing to pay for it…” [unnatural acceptance]
4. “If I told you I did it, I’d be lying.” [exaggerated redundancy]