“Positive or Negative” behavior is behavior that indicates the subject likes or dislikes the idea being discussed.
The reason for the term change is to simplify the interpretation of the behavior. It describes whether the person
likes or dislikes a subject being discussed. For example, you are questioning a subject about a theft of money.
You ask the person if the missing money could be an accounting error and will turn up later. The person turns
into you, opening up, and displays behavior that indicates he likes the idea, that the missing money is due to an
accounting error. This behavior is often considered truthful behavior. However, the person is responding to the
idea that there was no theft. This is then interpreted as deceptive. IE: truthful behavior to a negative idea is
considered deceptive; kind of hard to get your mind around it. So, I just call it positive or negative behavior. If
the person responds in a positive manner to a negative idea, we consider it deceptive.
We came up with 5 categories of general behavior to look for. It is not a total list of all behaviors; it is a list of
general behavior. The 5 behaviors are as follows:
B Behavior The physical behavior that is observed during responses
E Eye contact Breaks in eye contact during responses
A Answer The answer itself
T Timing The timing of the response
V Voice The characteristics of the voice; tone, speed, volume etc.
We divided these behaviors into two groups, “Truthful or Positive” and “Deceptive or Negative.” As you look at
the behavior, compare it to the chart: it makes it easier to quickly categorize and interpret the behavior.
Evaluate only the behavior that is in response to and resulted from the asking of the question. Do not consider
movement that occurs between questions and could be considered movement that is the norm for that person
during the questioning.
Look for breaks in eye contact when the subject is answering the question. A truthful subject will maintain good
eye contact. When the deceptive person answers the question they may break eye contact, however briefly,
while answering the question. They may resume eye contact after the question, sometimes as if they are looking
to see if you are accepting the answer.
Evaluate the actual answer itself. Look for the following characteristics: Does the person use Harsh or soft
terms? Does the answer spread or focus suspicion. Does the person Include or omit themself from suspicion?
Does the person give you a direct answer or is the answer evasive or non-relevant to the question?
Check the answer for timing and consistency. Is the answer on time or are they thinking before answering? The
bottom line is to evaluate the timing of the answer with the type of question. Paul Ekman states, “Is the person
thinking when they shouldn’t have to?”
Does the person’s voice tone go up, down, or remain in the middle? Is the speech clear or mumbled? Does the
voice volume increase in anger when accused or remain neutral.
One caution, this is just a tool to observe and quickly analyze behavior. It is not ironclad and there is a significant
amount of learning required to become proficient at reading and interpreting behavior.
The following chart is a quick reference to observe and analyze behavior
|Quick Way To Read, Analyze and Interpret Body Language
In the beginning, when I started teaching others in the classroom about body
language, I would spend at least 8 hours on different types of gestures found in body
language and their possible interpretations. After the instruction, we would watch
videos of interviews, interrogations and people communicating. The goal was to put
to use the information about body language we had been discussing. The problem
we encountered was there was too much information to remember and put into
practice so soon after the instruction. Seeing the difficulty the students were having,
watching the videos and searching through the material to make an interpretation of
the kinesics, I needed to come up with something that would help them get
organized. I drew a quick reference chart on the board to help the students quickly
read and identify behavior; it worked great. I have put the chart in this article for your
I broke the types of body language into two categories, “Truth & Deception.” Later I
added “Positive or Negative” behavior and “Indicator Behavior.” Indicator Behavior is
behavior we observe to determine what stage a subject is in, so we can respond
effectively with the correct “Coordinated Behavior Response. (CBR). CBR is not
discussed in this article; however, it is discussed in great depth and detail in my text,
“Interview to Confession, The Art of the Gentle Interrogation.”
The two categories of Truth and Deception are self-explanatory. These behaviors,
when observed, generally indicate the person is being truthful or deceptive. A note
here; the deceptive behavior would be responses to questions by the investigator on
issues that are sensitive to the subject and generate stress. If the person does not
care, this does not work.
My book “Interview to Confession, The Art of the Gentle Interrogation” goes into great
detail on the use of non-verbal communications in interviews, investigations and
interrogations. It is available on Amazon.com and on our website APTACTraining.com.