June 2013

Warning Signs

The following are some examples of warning signs that can indicate that the interviewee is feeling stress over a certain area of questioning, possibly leading to a deceptive response. These behaviors alone do not necessarily indicate dishonesty. However, the auditor should be alert for a change in the interviewee’s verbal, vocal, or physical behaviors, such as the sudden adoption of one of these indicators, especially when it arises during a line of questioning regarding a particular issue or area.

Verbal Vocal Physical
  • Repetition of the question.
  • Oaths (e.g., “I swear” or “honestly”).
  • Answering with a question.
  • Avoidance of emotive words (e.g., such as “steal” or “lie”).
  • Qualifiers (e.g., “to the best of my memory” or “if I recall correctly”).
  • Modifiers (e.g., “basically,” “about,” “kind of,” or “actually”).
  • Changes in pitch of voice.
  • Changes in volume of voice.
  • Changes in speed or cadence of responses.
  • Coughing or clearing throat.    
  • Manipulators (e.g., playing with hair, cracking knuckles, or playing with a pencil).
  • Broken eye contact.
  • Fleeing position (i.e., sitting with body aimed toward the door, while head is faced in another direction).
  • Defensive posture (e.g., arms or legs crossed).