“Angel Faced Killer” or Innocent Bystander? Analysis of Amanda Knox’s Interview With Diane Sawyer 1

Case Summary

Amanda Knox is the American woman tried for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Italy, along with co-defendants Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede. The latter was convicted of the sexual assault and the murder in a separate trial. Knox and her boyfriend (Sollecito) were tried together, found guilty, and spent almost four years in prison before being acquitted at a second trial in October 2011.

She returned to the US while prosecutors appealed their case to the Italian Supreme Court. A third trial was ordered. Knox remained in the United States during these proceedings, which began in September 2013 and concluded in late January 2014. Authorities again found her guilty and sentenced Knox to 28 years in prison.

Analysis

The key requirement for accurately interpreting the words and gestures of others is a baseline. All verbal and nonverbal messages do not necessarily mean the same thing. To be accurate, one must observe the other party long enough to create the “baseline” of their normal mannerisms. Any subsequent anomaly displayed would then warrant attention.

That said, certain gestures and speech patterns can be seen as “Red Flags” and categorized as consistent with truthful behavior or consistent with deceptive behavior. (Note: It would also be safe to use the phrases indicative of or suggestive of).

In this video, Knox displays a wide range of emotions and behaviors. She provides many answers and emotions consistent with a truthful person. Her eyes maintain a slow blink rate throughout the interview, generally indicative of truthful behavior. Additionally, her posture and arm/hand gestures often appear relaxed, indicating a lack of stress – suggestive of truthfulness. In several instances, she seems genuinely outraged.

However, there are also 11 “Red Flags” indicating possible deception. This timeline shows the precise locations of these anomalies and explains their possible relevance.

00:13 – Asymmetric smirk in response to Sawyer’s first question. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:16 — “No” with smirk. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:18-00:20 — Answers “No” but nods yes.

00:24 – Swallows before answering a threatening question. See When to Watch the Throat For Signs of Deception

00:27-00:33 – Multiple denials to a single question. See 13 Ways a Liar Can Say “No,” But Mean “Yes”

00:53-00:58 – Displays misdirected anger at the police for doing their job. “They knew what they were doing and that’s unforgiveable to me” (paraphrased).

01:05-01:20 – Provides a weak denial regarding her confession, led by the word “Well,…” In this context, “well” is considered an Explainer, that is, an expression providing a reason or justification for an action, thought, or attitude. Explainers reveal a causal state in the mind of the speaker. Other Explainers include because, since, as, in order to, therefore, etc. The key take-away for Explainers is that they are frequently used as rationalization cues.

Note also she claimed the police “acted like my answers were wrong” and told Knox she “had to remember correctly.” Curiously, she displayed very little outrage against the police for these alleged acts although she appeared genuinely angry just moments earlier.

03:17-03:37 – “I wasn’t providing a lot of the detail…” In this context, the phrase “a lot” is known as a Qualifier or Hedge. This is a word or phrase that reduces the force of an assertion by allowing for exceptions or avoiding commitments. Note the continued lack of outrage against the police, whom she just claimed provided the bulk of her statement.

Also curious is her lack of eye contact. Her eyes are focused downward. Another possible indicator of deception is the ambiguity of her closing phrase — “It was all like that.”

03:37-03:42 – “And I signed it (confession)” with downward eyes. She continued to avoid  eye contact until she asserted “…because I was incredibly vulnerable at that time.” Note the use of because as an Explainer.

4:39-4:42 – Opens with “I can try to explain..” and ends with “That’s all I can do.’” The word “can” indicates the speaker (Knox) knew she had a choice (i.e., she can explain or she can choose not to). In contrast, a statement such as “I will” would have indicated both commitment and action.

4:43-4:58 – Knox expressed sorrow for falsely accusing Patrick and then rationalized it with “…BUT (pause), I was demolished…” The word “but” is known as a Retractor. This is a word that partially or totally negates the immediately preceding statement. Other Retractors include however, although, yet, & nevertheless.

Also note the imbalance of emphasis within her statement. Knox devoted just five seconds to her falsely accused colleague and then took ten seconds justifying why she accused him.

How Good Are You at Overcoming “Lies of Omission?” Try This “Real-Life” Test! Reply

Brenda’s Story

The incident described below actually occurred. Read Brenda’s statement carefully and then complete the practical exercise that follows her narrative.

“One night I had a visitor. It was a friend – or rather a relative. He was from out of town and he came up for the weekend. When he got to the apartment, I didn’t realize anything was wrong. I invited him into the – my apartment and gave him a mixed drink. Later on, he went back to his car and brought out beer that he had been drinking. He also had a gun that he brought into the apartment. He proceeded to get very drunk. I eventually went to sleep. When I woke up, he was very drunk and there was beer cans and beer bottles strung all around my apartment. He was smoking a cigarette and using an ashtray that was full of paper. There was also cigarette butts in my carpeting. I started raising hell and at one time I thought he was going to get violent. He started shaking me and he wouldn’t let me move. All I could think about was the gun he had brought in and I thought I was going to have to call the police to get rid of him. Finally, I just made him drink the end of his beer and I stayed up till he went to sleep. That’s it.”

In analyzing Brenda’s statement, you most likely realized elements of her storyline are missing. She is intentionally withholding information, which means her account is deceptive.

Now that Brenda has provided her story, you will need to review events with her in an effort to learn what really happened. Before continuing, you may want to review the following posts:

The Forensic Profile of a True Statement 

The Forensic Profile of a False Statement 

Lie-Spotting – It’s As Easy as “1, 2, 3” 

Questions as Verbal Tools – What’s in YOUR Toolbox? 

Now, using the “reply” icon, list at least 10 open-ended questions that could be useful in uncovering the truth. We will provide feedback on your answers to maximize the value of this exercise.

One open-ended question is already provided:

  1. You said, “I didn’t realize anything was wrong….” What did you mean?
  2. ?????

What Al-Qaeda Taught Me About the Frailty of Loyalty – Redux Reply

Al-Qaeda in Iraq (Courtesy: Fox News)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This award-winning post was originally published on May 29, 2013.

By Chris Simmons

The most diabolical, manipulative, and extraordinarily successful interrogation ploy I used to interrogate High-Value terrorists in Iraq was the Prisoners’ Dilemma. It LITERALLY never failed. Research the Prisoners’ Dilemma and you will find it called “game theory.” I can assure you its use is neither theoretical nor game-like. It appeals to the strongest and basest instincts in all of us – self-survival –by pitting members of a group against one another for a reward.

More was always better with this technique, but a two detainee minimum was sufficient. In our case, we always began our “theater of the mind” in the Black Room, so named as its floor, ceiling, and walls were painted matte black. We’d also found a way to give the room a slight echo-effect, which many found unsettling. Having captured several Al-Qaeda associates (all believed to have similar information) in a given raid, we would move them from their individual cells to the Black Room. While being moved, our detainees wore blacked-out goggles to increase stress and anxiety.

My guards would place the detainees against opposing walls. Once everyone was in position, they would quickly and briefly lift the detainees’ goggles so they could see their associates. In an amazing performance, one of my staff – in a very calm and confident voice – would then tell the group they needed to listen carefully as we were about to make a limited-time offer. They were told we knew who they were and that they shared similar experiences and knowledge. As a result, we explained, there was no need for us to question all of them. So, the first one (or two, or three – depending on group size) to cooperate would receive lenient treatment and be quickly released. The others would be identified as “uncooperative” and held indefinitely (Note: We were under no obligation to be truthful with our High-Value Individuals).

Pacing back and forth down the center of the room, my “choreographer” would then announce that all those ready to cooperate and be quickly processed for release should raise their right hand – NOW. Since our performance was based exclusively on auditory cues, nothing was left to chance. Regardless of whether anyone raised their hand, my “choreographer” would then loudly announce “Alright, we have one…now two..” (Note: His response was tailored based on group size).

Extra guards we had stationed in the Black Room would then noisily shuffle off, creating the illusion of cooperating detainees. The words and sounds exploited their worst fears. Within seconds, hands would go up (if they hadn’t initially). Paranoia soared as the sound of more exiting detainees echoed throughout the room.

In some cases, every detainee volunteered, creating a vicious race to see who could reveal the most information the fastest. For any that were left, we would wait until the room was again silent and as their goggles were lifted, tell them what their eyes knew to be true –several (if not all) of their colleagues had abandoned them. Invariably, the previously reluctant detainee(s) would suddenly agree to “take the deal.” The cut-throat competitiveness of the Prisoners’ Dilemma also precluded detainees from the self-defeating response of lying to one of my interrogators. It simply did not occur.

The most striking and disturbing aspect of this questioning technique was how quickly self-interest shattered not just the existing cohesiveness of the detainee group, but even their individual values, beliefs, and identities. Blood-ties and Al-Qaeda service together meant little when pitted against our appeal. On every occasion, primal self-interest trumped loyalty and collective needs, not it days or weeks, but in just a few short hours.

A “Cheat Sheet” For The Art of Negotiation 1

By Chris Simmons

Negotiations come in all shapes, sizes, and intensities. While bargaining with a spy is very different from negotiating a home purchase or buying a car, many of the core tactics remain the same. Simple to master and easy to remember, these practices will help you get more out of any negotiation.

PREPARATION

  1. Understand that negotiations are rooted in emotional “wants,” not rational “needs.” For example, do you really “need” a 455 HP Corvette? Know what the other party truly wants. What is it that you need? How big is the gap between what you want and what you need?
  2. Identify the personal and cultural biases and quirks of the other party. Develop a plan to circumvent their biases or exploit weaknesses in their perceptions (for example, you may want to use a female negotiator in a male-dominated industry).
  3. Have an opening position, a “target” or ideal position, and a bottom line.
  4. In general, plan to address the easier issues first as a means of building momentum. The longer you negotiate, the harder it is for many people to walk away.
  5. Since most communication is nonverbal, one team member should focus on watching the behavioral cues of the other party.
  6. Remember, threats have no place in a negotiation, no matter how hotly contested.
  7. When possible, avoid allowing your decision-maker to get involved once the negotiations are underway. This maximizes your bargaining position and leverage by intentionally limiting your negotiator’s authority.
  8. Ideally, have a single spokesperson, but allow any team member to call a caucus, and caucus often.

“IN THE ROOM”

  1. Never be afraid to walk away from a negotiation – and ensure the other party knows you will if discussions sour.
  2. Operate from the perspective that everything is negotiable.
  3. Never accept their first offer.
  4. Nothing is free; every concession you offer is an exchange for something you want. Use “Yes, if…” in your discussions to reinforce the perception that the issue is not yet decided. Derail any outrageous offer by making your “if” so severe, that YOU decline the offer & counteroffer as unacceptable to both sides.
  5. Your initial offer should be at the upper limits of what is reasonable.
  6. Use sharply tapered concessions to gain momentum and show “good faith” effort. Make very small concessions as you near the end. Many individuals and groups follow a pattern known as the “Rule of Halves.” In this technique, each concession is roughly – but never precisely – half of the previous offer. If you are pushed below your target goal, intensify the theatrics by pushing hard for every point; seeking to split the difference; and offering no major concessions.
  7. Be patient.
  8. Always be on the lookout for creative concessions to offer.
  9. Be sensitive to any outside issue that seems to arise unexpectedly, as it could be a real issue.
  10. When the deal is almost done, ask for one more concession. This is known as a “nibble at the end.”
  11. Everything is conditional — until settled at the conclusion.
  12. When asked “is this your bottom line?,” answer with words to the effect “This is a fair offer/competitive offer/etc.”
  13. Ensure the other party feels satisfied with the outcome. Note: “Win-lose” negotiations are viable only in one-shot opportunities where no long-term relationship is sought (e.g., buying a car, house, etc).

 

The Forensic Profile of a False Statement 2

By Chris Simmons

[Note: This feature should be read in conjunction with yesterday’s post].

Like a truthful narrative, a dishonest statement has five components and is arranged in a predictable pattern. However, in a falsehood, the sequencing of the core elements is reversed and the Main Information split in half. As such, a deceitful storyline is structured like so: Start, Main Information, Minor Details, Main Information, & the End.

The splitting of the Main Information triggers the “roller coaster” effect many people experience when victimized by a lie. In this scenario, the sub-conscious mind has spotted the anomaly (i.e., a deceptive pattern) but has not yet identified the lie(s).

These behavioral cues are indicative of a false statement:

1. The deceitful interviewee will only include information relevant to the discussion (in contrast to a truthful individual, who includes extraneous data).
2. The deceiver’s narrative tends to be very concise.
3. Almost without exception, the interviewee’s body language will show clusters of deceptive behavior.
4. When the interviewee is providing the Minor Details, be aware that he/she is studying your body language to gauge whether he/she is believed. If they see signs of skepticism, they may alter the second chuck of Main Information to allow themselves a way out.

Test a suspicious story by allowing the interviewee to tell his/her account from start to finish without interruption. After a brief period, ask them to tell their story backwards. Since a dishonest tale is memorized from start-to-finish, you will detect hesitation and stalling as the interviewee replays the story in their head. The timeline will quickly fall apart as well, as items are forgotten, moved around, and occasionally — added.

The Forensic Profile of a True Statement Reply

By Chris Simmons

When interviewing a person, bear in mind that every truthful narrative consists of five components which follow a predictable pattern: Start, Minor Details, Main Information, Minor Details & the End.

1. During the interview, the Minor Details you encounter will be blocks of the interviewee’s personal time or movement that smoothly guide you into and then out of the Main Information.
2. The Main Information, naturally, is the core focus of the interview and answers what are known as the basic interrogatives: who, what, when, where, how, and why.
3. As a rule of thumb, a true account is always told chronologically, like a novel.
4. The interviewee will inevitably include information unrelated to the focus of the interview/discussion.
5. In response to questions or comments, the interviewee’s body language will often be more subdued than their normal behavior.
6. Once the individual has presented his/her story, you can review events with them and their timeline will remain intact.

Questions as Verbal Tools – What’s in YOUR Toolbox? Reply

By Chris Simmons

“Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers” (the French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, Voltaire)

Whether questioning a child about a fight on the playground or persuading a work colleague to support your latest initiative, HOW you ask questions directly shapes the answer you receive. Questions are tools, and like any tool, designed for specific jobs.

For example, closed-ended questions should result in very brief and precise answers. A “Yes/No” inquiry is the simplest form of this style. Other viable closed-ended questions would include “what’s your name,” “when were you born?” and so forth. This means is often used to verify information. It is also effective in a hostile interview, such as a parent and teenager discussing a broken curfew. In this scenario, closed-ended questions can help set the framework for the discussion AND build momentum with the defensive party by getting them used to answering your questions. The downside of this device, however, is that it does not create/enhance rapport, nor will it calm down the other individual.

One common mistake to avoid is the two-part question, such as “Did you fly to New York or take the train?” By giving the respondent a choice, if he/she took either mode of transportation, they could correctly answer with a simple “Yes” or the more sarcastic, “Yes, I either flew or took the train to New York.” Ask a focused question – get an exact answer.

Like a carpenter building a room, closed-ended questions can set the boundaries of the discussion. You can then use open-ended questions to allow the other party to add narration to your inquiry (e.g., “Tell me what happened.”). By its very nature, this approach encourages him/her to respond. In doing so, they will add detail, context, and insights to the topic of discussion. Additionally, the other party will now tend to relax as they have a greater role in the conversation.

That said, you should always be wary of this classic “red flag” — anytime the other party answers your question with a question, you are about to be deceived. This is especially true when their response is simply a restatement of what you just asked. This trick, especially common among children, is simply a stall. Its sole purpose is to buy time so that he/she can come up with a better answer.

12 Unconventional Interview Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask Reply

By Dharmesh Shah, OnStartups.com

Where potential employees are concerned, obviously skills are important. Yet we’ve all seen fabulously talented individuals become a team that was far less than the sum of its parts.

While expertise is important, cultural fit can be just as – if not more – important. It’s something we obsess over at my company, result in what we call our Culture Code (that describes how we think about talent and culture at HubSpot).

As a result your interviews should focus on more than just skills and qualifications. You also need to ask questions to probe whether candidates will fit into your organization: Are they likely to play well in your particular sandbox? Will their work style and personality complement your team?

Will they not just survive but thrive in a fast-paced, often-chaotic startup environment?

Do your homework before the interview and you should already have a good sense of whether the candidate has the right blend of skills and experiences to be able to do the job well. So definitely dive deeper into an exploration of talent and expertise, but also ask questions to determine whether the candidate can do the job well in your organization – because hiring even one employee who doesn’t fit your culture creates a culture debt you may never pay off.

Keep in mind how the candidate answers is important, but the conversations that follow– since a great interview is a conversation, not an interrogation – can reveal even more:

1. “What concerns do you have about our company?”

Strange question? Not really. No company – and no job – is perfect for any employee (even its founders.) Every company and every job has its challenges and potential downsides.

The candidates you want to hire don’t think your company is perfect; they’ve done sufficient research to know that while yours is not the perfect company and the job is not the perfect job, yours is a company they want to work for because they can thrive, make a difference, develop and learn and grow and achieve… and be a key part of taking your company to even greater heights.

And as a result they’re willing to honestly share their concerns – because they trust you run a company that values openness, honesty, and transparency.

2. “What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?”

Everyone makes tough decisions. (Well, at least everyone you want to hire does.)

Good candidates made a decision based on analysis or reasoning. Great candidates made a decision based on data and on interpersonal considerations – because every important or meaningful decision, no matter how smart it looks on paper, eventually has an effect on and must be carried out by people.

A company at its core is made up of people. Great employees weigh both sides of an issue, considering the “business” aspects as well as the human impact.

3. “Tell me about a time when you had to slog your way through a ton of work. How did you get through it?”

We all are required to at least occasionally place our noses on the grindstone. Most people can slog through the drudgery because they have to.

The candidates you want to hire can take on a boring task, find the meaning in that task, and turn it into something they want to do.

Great employees turn the outer-directed into the self-directed – and in the process, perform at a much higher level. And gain a greater sense of fulfillment.

On the flip side…

Questions 4-12 are here: 12 Unconventional Interview Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask

Wired For Sound: The Secrets of Auditory Eye Movements & Behaviors 1

By Chris Simmons

Recalling a sound-centric event triggers one of two involuntary behavioral cues known as auditory eye movements. If the individual’s eyes go down and to their left, they are remembering what they heard. If, however, they are trying to remember what they said to someone or thought (i.e., an “internal sound”), their eyes will remain level as they look to their left.

The “Communication Paradox:” How Little You Know About Life’s Most Important Skill noted how the five senses are rooted in our everyday vocabulary. For example, someone might say: “How would it sound if I told you we need to send you to Miami for two weeks? Would that be music to your ears?” He/she is clearly speaking from an auditory perspective. Thus, when asking someone for an auditory recollection, use hearing-associated words to enhance the speed and effectiveness of their memory. This also keeps you on the same “verbal highway,” reducing the risk of miscommunication.

In contrast, auditory construction (i.e., lying) is revealed when an individual’s eyes move to their right in response to an asked or anticipated question. Remember, deceptive cues manifest in a series of “behavioral tells,” so be prepared for other common signs of deceit such as changes in their narrative’s level of detail, the introduction of qualifying phrases or hedges, etc.

Additionally, a deceptive person with an auditory speech preference will often refer to previous conversations in their responses (e.g., “As I’ve told you before…”). This is a psychological form of stress relief, emotional distancing and feigned cooperation because even if he/she lied during the cited conversation, their current statement is – in fact – true. As a result, the liar is calmer and may exhibit few (if any) signs of deception because their focus is the fact that the referenced conversation occurred, not the event in question.