Constantine has been sorting through witness testimony at criminal trials, class action suits and personal injury cases using her expertise as a “forensic behavioral expert” to detect deceptive statements since 2005.
“With good investigative or interrogative skills you can determine whether someone is lying with an 80 to 95 percent degree of certainty,” says Constantine.
She works with attorneys who are preparing to go to trial and she works with attorneys during trials helping them understand which witnesses are telling the truth and which ones aren’t. She’s been involved in a number of very famous trials such as the Casey Anthony, Amanda Knox, Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson, Jerry Sandusky trials and many, many more.
Constantine uses a variety of tools and techniques to study body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, witness statements and testimony transcripts looking for signs of deceptive language – everything from verb tense to the blink of an eye to subtle gestures and word choices that might reveal untruthfulness.
“When people are lying you are going to see distress in their face,” says Constantine. “You’ll see their eyebrows pinched together. You will see horizontal lines in their forehead. You might see a fearful mouth where lips are pressed together, or stretched horizontally.”
Of course, there could be other reasons for the person to be stressed. That’s where Constantine’s expertise kicks in.
“There is no ‘slam-dunk’ moment or a ‘Pinocchio” response where you think you have nailed it,” she says. “A skilled examiner will know how to work their way through the conversation, asking specific questions, allowing the subject to talk and reveal themselves.”
“You need to ask underlying questions to find out if there are other emotional issues that might be producing those responses,” adds Constantine. “That’s where it gets tricky. It takes a trained professional applying the skills over and over again.”
Constantine studied her craft at the Paul Ekman Foundation. Ekman is an American academic, behavioral science expert and researcher known as a cutting edge leader in the study of understanding nonverbal behavior and communication.
According to Constantine deceptive people usually offer some version of the truth but it is often the information they leave out that tells the real story.
“Even the most heinous criminal has a natural propensity to tell the truth but they can’t because it doesn’t fit the story,” says Constantine. “So they omit, or leave out, or skip over critical parts of the story trying to create a logical one.”
“Don’t try to figure out the story just listen to the words, just watch the body language, the facial expressions, and listen for what they are leaving out – that will tell you the truth of the story,” she says.
“I teach attorneys to pay attention to the logical information,” Constantine says. “If people are being deceptive you should be able to see that in more than one way. Their facial expressions may not match what they are saying, they omit information, they use non-definitive words like ‘later on, or sometimes’. You have to tie all these things together. It’s a cluster of things, it is not just one thing that reveals the lie.”
Constantine has recently added a powerful tool to her arsenal of truth detection. It is a software program called The Jury Lab. Using video captures of individuals or groups of people the computer program analyzes facial expressions and emotional responses. The program scans the information and produces an analysis. It’s a kind of artificial intelligence.
“The Jury Lab program will pick up on what people are processing emotionally without them even saying a word,” says Constantine.
She uses The Jury Lab with attorneys who are using mock trial situations (and they do) to help them develop their strategy before going into the courtroom. It helps lawyers, among other things, to understand what words and phrases might resonant or alternatively, be rejected by jurors.
“You will know with 95 percent accuracy what emotion that person is feeling when you are presenting different parts of our case. That is beautiful because – it keeps all human bias out of it. It is like IBM Watson of human artificial emotional intelligence.”
Wow! Next time you think someone is fibbing you’ll want to remember what Susan Constantine said.