Detecting Deception in an Apology

ian.trudel@gmail.com November, 30 t h 2009 This is an essay on Detecting Deception in an Apology (DDinA) using statement analysis. The approach presented in this essay aims to be accessible to the general public by focusing on the basic elements of statement analysis and provides the ability to be manually performed in a reasonably short time with an acceptable appreciation of the truthfulness and sincerity in an apology.

Rationale
Numerous compelling reasons may motivate an individual or a group to know whether or not an apologetic person is truthful and sincere. For example, the need for closure or interest in reconciliation may be the driving force to know. It may help a company to know if a troublesome employee is truly sorry and will promptly remedy to the situation. It may be an influential factor to lessen a punishment in the Court of Law. Personal and professional relationships alike will benefit from determining truthfulness in an apology regardless of the reasons.

Approach, Tools and Techniques
The approach used in Detecting Deception in an Apology (DDinA) is straightforward since it is based on fundamentals of Statement Analysis [1] and its application on the particulars peculiar to apologies [2] . This essay discusses the principal differences characterizing the statement analysis of apologetic statements. DDinA is an effective approach to determine, within reason, the truthfulness in an apology. Determining the sincerity in an apology or an apologetic person is unfortunately proven to be more challenging. DDinA nevertheless provides an acceptable appreciation of the sincerity behind an apology.

Apologetic Statements An apologetic statement should answer to the questions listed in this subsection. The answers, or lack thereof, play an important role in determining whether or not a statement is complete and accurate. Statement analysis is accordingly performed on each and every part of an apology to apprehend deceptive words or wording.
• • • • • • •

What events are you apologizing for? (Accountability) What are the consequences of your actions? (Acknowledgement) Who is responsible for the consequences? (Taking Responsibility) Do you regret your actions [and how so]? (Expressing Regrets) Do you wish to be forgiven? (Asking for Forgiveness, optional) Do you promise that it won't happen again? (Promise, optional) How will you to repair the situation? (Restitution, optional)

Statement Analysis Statement analysis related articles are listed in the references section available below for those who are not familiar with it. These references should serve as a starting point, if you have no prior experience in statement analysis, but are more than enough to assist you in analyzing most apologies. Only few elements from these articles are reiterated in this essay. Statement analysis examines four components [3] : • Parts of Speech (pronouns, nouns, verbs) • Extraneous Information (see also [4] ) • Lack of Conviction (see also [4] ) • Balance of the Statement

Text Bridges Text bridges [5] are particularly effective in detecting deception in descriptions of events. The nature of an apology is considerably different from, for example, an incident report and only a small part of it can be considered as a description of events (e.g. Accountability). The presence of text bridges in other parts that do not describe a flow of events may or may not be deceptive and it might be difficult to identify what and why information is concealed. Previous correspondence may be helpful to establish a baseline, a normal context without pressure and stress, to determine how and when an apologetic person use certain text bridges and decide whether or not they are in fact used to conceal information. Extraneous Information Any information that does not answer to the questions as defined in subsection “ Apologetic Statements ” is considered extraneous [4] . A deceptive person might be tempted to communicate a considerable amount of extraneous information in order to divert the attention from the important questions and thus reducing the completeness of the apologetic statement. Furthermore, a deceptive person may attempt to rationalize his or her actions to diminish his or her responsibility in the problematic situation, or even rationalize the actions of the person he or she is apologizing to, for example, to obtain apologies from this person or to later obtain favours of any kind. It is a deceptive and manipulative practice. The pronoun “I” is denoted to be used by truthful persons in an incident report according to experienced investigators because it is an indicator of commitment to what has been written or said. This is normally valid in every part of an apology but it should not undermine the fact that an apology is about the person one apologizes to. Any statement shifting the focus back to the apologetic person in an attempt to rationalize his or her actions should be considered suspicious. The use of the pronoun "I" in extraneous information is likely to be deceptive.

Balance of an Apology The balance of the statement is considerably different in an apology from an incident report. An incident report recollects events before, during and after the incident. This constitutes only a part in an apology, see Anatomy of an Apology [2] . Accountability and acknowledgement are mandatory in a truthful apology and they are the longest parts in a balanced apology, but one may be longer than another. A truthful statement in an incident report is chronological and concise, and this is also true in accountability. Taking responsibility and expressing regrets are also mandatory and they are usually short and clear because they lean on the introduction of the events and their consequences. Asking for forgiveness, a promise and a form of restitution are not mandatory but they should be present whenever it is meaningful. Asking for forgiveness and a promise are usually short and clear. A form of restitution is longer but usually not as long as accountability and/or acknowledgement, that is, depending on the actions necessary to repair the harm done.

Truthfulness versus Sincerity
These words seem to be alike but they are different. Being truthful means to state the truth, which conforms with facts or reality. Being sincere means to be free from hypocrisy. An apologetic person can be truthful but insincere at the same time. This happens when an apologetic person says or writes all the right things at the right moment, entirely based on the truth, in a complete and accurate manner but don't mean any of it. An insincere apologetic person is likely to cause harm all over again. It is to be considered that the process of writing a truthful apology may incline the person to become sincere, even though it may not have been the initial intent, or otherwise unwillingly leave clues that he or she is not.

While most people leak information that betrays their lies, pathological liars and psychopaths are able to convey others that they are truthful and sincere. According to psychologist Robert D. Hare, an estimated of 1 in every 100 persons is a psychopath, but not every psychopath is violent. The better the liar, the more time necessary to uncover the lies. There is however a correlation between truthfulness and sincerity in such manner that an apologetic person cannot be sincere and untruthful. An untruthful person is likely to cause harm again, if only as a direct or indirect result of his or her lies and deception.

Structure of an Apology
The structure of an apology is certainly important and should be close to the structure described in an Anatomy of an Apology [2] . In a perfect world, a truthful and sincere apologetic person will apologize in a structured and concise manner. There are many reasons an apologetic person may not offer a structured apology. A lack of organization is an indication that the person is disorganized and confused. The confusion may be caused by emotions, misunderstanding of any kind, or deceptive intents. Deceptive intents may be revealed as an attempt to confuse the person that he or she is apologizing to and is most often found in extraneous information. Confusion may create doubts that lead a person to think the apologetic person is truthful and sincere. Deceptive intents can be ruled out only when every mandatory part of an apology is present and are determined to be truthful.

Qualifiers and Qualifying Statements

A qualifying statement is an attempt to reduce or discard a message before, during or after it is transmitted. Identifying qualifiers and qualifying statements is one of the many powerful techniques used in statement analysis to detect deception. People tend to use indirect deceptive statements rather than direct denial, lies and deceptions.

There are two particular subtypes of qualifying statements that are used more often in apologies. This is what I call the disclaimer and the fine prints. A disclaimer is statement that disclaims responsibility and is most often found at the beginning of an apology. Consider the opening phrase, "I strongly believe that what I have done was somewhat justified, I am sorry." This phrase contains three (3) qualifying statements in an attempt to play down the apologetic person's responsibility in his or her actions. The structure is also modified in such way to avoid the word "but", in order to conceal the restrictions in a given apology, since this sentence could be reversed as "I am sorry but [...] ". It is a clear sign of deception and it could translate as "What I am about to tell you is untrue...". A fine print is a similar attempt by an apologetic person to play down his or her responsibilities and is usually found at the end of an apology, or sometimes throughout. Consider the phrases, "Don't believe everything I say" and "Don't take me too seriously." The deceptive person made an attempt to make you believe that he or she did not mean what he or she has previously said or done in the past that caused a problematic situation. However, the deceptive person further reveals, without his or her knowledge, that he or she may also not mean his or her apology. It is clear sign of deception and it could translate as "Oh, by the way, I did not entirely mean what I've just said."

Non-Apology Apology
A non-apology apology is an apology that sounds like one while in fact it is not. Consider the following apology, "I'm sorry you were offended by my remarks." [8] A great and simple apology can be rendered non-apologetic by a simple word, as in the following example, "I'm sorry if you were offended by my remarks." Conditional statements should be taken for what they are: a condition. An apologetic person may attempt to deceive you with conditional statements by expecting you to fill-inthe-blanks. A sincere apology is assertive and unconditional.

A non-apology apology can be difficult to recognize when an apology is long. An apologetic person is not apologizing when he or she does not acknowledge the harm done (Acknowledgement) and take responsibility for causing this harm (Taking Responsibility). It is a deceptive practice and a sign of insincerity.

Emotions in an Apology
Every human being experience emotions in a continuous manner with more or less intensity. Emotions occur in a given situation for many different reasons and the intensity will vary according to the emotional involvement of a given person. The situation might trigger emotions in an apologetic person when it happens but it might also occur while recollecting events or during the process of formulating an apology in writing or in person. Consequently, emotions can be detected in an apologetic statement. They are found in unique sensory details, inclusion of emotions, misspellings, hesitations, slip-of-thetongue, and so forth. The first and second are often reliable indicators of veracity [6] . The others are most often attributed to deception but are sometimes indicators of strong emotions, and sometimes both at the same time. A problematic situation involving a great deal of emotions in the apologetic person should be reflected in his or her apologetic statement. Strong emotions may provoke a momentarily lost of control, especially during the refractory period, which is of variable duration depending on the person and previous history of similar emotional situations, and may, for example, compel an apologetic person to misspell a word. The lack of emotions in a highly sensitive issue may be a sign of deception, as distancing language would be, with the exception of, perhaps, business-tobusiness issues that do not involve emotions.

Believe it or not, some apologetic persons insult the person they are apologizing to in their apologies. An apology is about respect. Direct and indirect insults are a sign of insincerity.

Insults in an Apology

Private versus Public Apologies
An apologetic person should apologize publicly, and possibly privately, when he or she has caused harm in public and/or to the reputation of another person. This include any harm caused in public, for example, the general public, friends and acquaintances, business partners, customers and so on. An apologetic person who has caused harm under the public eyes who is apologizing privately may be trying to save his or her own face. It is deceptive and a sign of insincerity. Likewise, it would be strange that a private matter, which has no public consequences, receive a public apology from an apologetic person. The apologetic person may attempt to gain from a public apology in a private matter. It is also deceptive and a sign of insincerity.

There is no such thing as an anonymous apology. A signature has important ramifications in our modern society. It is so important that it legally binds two persons whenever apposed on a contract. An unsigned apology means the apologetic person is not committed to his or her apology. This is a sign of deception and the apology should be considered untruthful and insincere. Likewise, it should be clear who is sending the apology. For example, an apology sent through email should be by the usual channel that the apologetic person has used in the past. Or, in some case, by an official mean. Any change in behaviour is suspicious. An apologetic person alternating from unofficial and official emails is most likely deceptive and manipulative, especially when the apologies are sent through an unofficial email address and requests through an official one.

Identification and Signature

Benefits from an Apology
There are deceptive persons who are trying to gain from an apology without being truthful and sincere. They may convince that they are apologizing using different methods, such as non-apology apology, unsigned apology, alternating truthful and deceitful statements, alternating official and unofficial communication means, and so on. They may also

hope to receive an apology from the person they are allegedly apologizing to. It is a deceptive, manipulative and insincere practice. The benefits from an apology come with a truthful and sincere apology.

Further Investigation
A letter of apology may not always be enough to determine truthfulness and sincerity of the apologetic person. For this reason, an investigation may bring forward important elements to be considered. The most valuable assets in an apology, aside the apology itself, are the apologetic person and the person who receives the apology. Learning about both parties may help to understand the underlying dynamic of each person, individually and in their relationship, and the intentions behind an apology. Follow-up interviews may also give an opportunity to clear up suspicions. Prepare questions based on the elements in the apology that seemed deceitful and obtain subsequent recordings or written statements whenever it is possible. This is a particularly beneficial approach in complex situations where the risks in reconciliation may have important consequences.

Conclusion

The approach discussed in this essay is based on fundamentals of statement analysis and describes the differences particular to an apology. An acceptable appreciation of the truthfulness and sincerity in an apology can be determined using this approach in a relatively short time. The benefits in knowing whether or not an apology is truthful and sincere can encourage a speedy reconciliation or avoid further harm.

References
Valuable information on Statement Analysis, by Mark McClish, at http://www.statementanalysis.com/ . [2] Anatomy of An Apology, Ian Trudel, November, th 25 , 2009, at http://mecenia.blogspot.com/2009/11/anatomyof-apology.html .
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“What Do Suspects' Words Really Reveal?”, Susan H. Adams, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October, 1996. [4] “Statement Analysis Field Examination Technique : A Useful Investigative Tool”, Gene Klopf and Andrew Tooke, FBI Enforcement Bulletin, April, 2003. [5] “Text Bridges and the Micro-Action Interview”, John R. Schafer, Ph.D., FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, January, 2008. [6] “Are You Telling Me the Truth? Indicators of Veracity in Written Statements”, Susan H. Adams, Ph.D., John P. Jarvis, Ph.D., FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October, 2004. [7] Qualifiers at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_modifier . [8] Non-Apology Apology at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-apology_apology .
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