Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Linda J. White | Mark My Words
Author Guest / June 16, 2014

My friend Sharon and I sat watching the televised news conference of a political candidate I liked. The man had been accused of having an affair. Standing in front of reporters, he denied the campaign-ending allegations. I wanted to believe him. My friend knew better. Sharon Smith is a retired FBI agent and a forensic psycholinguist. She studies language, the words people use, in the context of criminal investigations. Detecting deception, analyzing kidnappers’ notes, and assessing threats are just a few of the areas in which she applies her specialized knowledge. What tipped her off that the politician was lying? Body language does sometimes provide clues to what a person is thinking, but more recent studies have shown words are more reliable indicators of what’s going on inside. For example, the use of qualifiers like “sort of,” “kind of,” and “possibly” indicate a suspect is backing away from the truth. A man suspected of killing his girlfriend may admit that he was “sort of” angry with her when neighbors heard the fight. These “minimal descriptors” also include words like “I believe” and “probably”. Not answering directly is also a clear red flag. For example, when an investigator says, “Did you…