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PATC E-NewsletterLinguistic Statement Analysis Technique:
Examining the Written Statement as a Crime Scene

By Sgt. Bob Shaffer


LSAT Training for Law Enforcement

In 1998, a detective from my department was investigating an alleged sexual assault. The suspect had met the victim in a dance club, taken her to his home, and forced her to have sex.  The detective was convinced the suspect had committed the crime and had drafted a warrant for his arrest.  As an afterthought, [the detective] decided to apply LSAT to the victim’s statement in hopes of gaining some more information to strengthen her case.  In a matter of minutes I firmly concluded for the detective that this was not a forced sexual assault but was consensual sex.  The detective tried to re-interview the victim, inquiring about the additional information that was revealed in her statement. The victim declined and abruptly withdrew her complaint. Further investigation revealed the victim had slept with the man that night and tried to explain her bad behavior to her friends by inventing the rape story. In this case, statement analysis prevented the arrest and potential punishment of an innocent person.

In a 1999 robbery case, LSAT was conducted on the statement of a convenience store clerk who reported an armed robbery.  Basing their investigation on LSAT, detectives quickly revealed that the robber was actually the clerk’s boyfriend and that they had conspired to stage the robbery.

These are excellent examples of how the Linguistic Statement Analysis Technique (LSAT) has been used to conduct investigations with a much higher degree of efficiency and effectiveness. LSAT is a validated and highly dependable, accurate process by which a trained analyst examines language to determine truthfulness, deception, and reveal hidden information the author did not realize they even included.  LSAT is a consistent, systematic process that closely examines the word choice, structure and content of a subject’s statement to determine whether it is the product of memory (truthful) or other subconscious sources (deceptive).

A 1994 study of the validity of L.S.A.T. revealed it to be accurate at a rate in excess of 90% in the detection of deception and truthfulness.  Compare this to a 1999 study in which a diverse group of people from various backgrounds were asked to watch and listen to someone telling a story and determine if they were truthful or deceptive.  Without a systematic method, they were able to detect deception with only a 60% average success rate, which is questionable at best. 

All humans use the same subconscious strategies and tactics to deceive. Our choice of words, phrases, sentence and statement structure, and statement content is significantly different when we are deceptive from when we are truthful.  One of the numerous strategies that LSAT uses to reveal deception is to identify the “simple” omission of incriminating information.  This is not that simple however.  When we leave out incriminating information from our story, it must be replaced with something else in order for the story to flow and make sense.  Otherwise, it would leave an obvious void.  Our subconscious strategy for doing this is to replace the missing information with other specific words or phrases.  LSAT has identified these numerous linguistic markers or signals that are very dependable indicators that highlight an author’s intentional omission of information they didn’t want us to know.  

Traditional investigative methods require the investigator to ask many specific questions to gain information. The investigator examines the entire story, trying to rationalize whether the information is truthful or deceptive by catching the person in an inconsistency or lie. In contrast, the LSAT analyst examines a suspect’s written statement before the interview or interrogation. Using the person’s own words against them, they know beforehand what the deception is and exactly where it lies without having asked a single question.  In the interview, the investigator attacks the specific part of the story where the suspect mistakenly believes they have skillfully concealed their lie. This strips him/her of their defense and leaves them highly vulnerable and significantly improving the likelihood of gaining the suspect’s confession.

L.S.A.T. is highly popular with agencies such as the F.B.I., the U.S. military intelligence and other prominent government agencies. Local law enforcement is recognizing the value of statement analysis and is leading a growing movement toward applying it in a wide range of criminal investigations from arson and assault to robbery and homicide. When applied by a competent analyst, LSAT saves a tremendous amount of time and increases confession rates to as high as 70%.

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