There are three principal disciplines of
Statement Veracity Analysis.
- Criteria Based Content Analysis ( CBCA)
- Statement Content Analysis ( SCAN ) ª
- Scientific Content Analysis ( SCAN )
The study of Statement Analysis is the study of Verbal
Behaviour (VB). This excludes Non-Verbal Behaviours (NVB)
which is an entirely different subject matter usually referred
to as Kinesics.
SVA is nothing new today. It is a well known ‘Truth
Detection’ technique amongst psychologists in Germany
and the Netherlands. Originally SVA was devised ( 1930’s)
by psychologists to interpret what children’s words
, primarily in cases of actual and suspected child abuse
and sexual molestation. The rationale was that children
have a different perception of the world and occurrences,
than do adults. It is the child’s perceptions and
explanations that required elaboration and verification.
SVA was mandated into the German legal system in the 1950’s.
Prof Udo Undeutsch (Koln University) hypothesised that ‘Truthful
statements are richer in detail and content than statements
that are based on fabrication or fantasy’.
The major premise of Statement Veracity Analysis stems
from empirical evidence that the recall of real events differs
noticeably from fabricated accounts in (Undeutsch, 1954;
Trankell, 1972; Wegner, 1989).
Udo Undeutsch pioneered the technique of credibility assessment
to develop relatively precise, definable criteria, that
may help discern valid statements from false statements.
SVA techniques led to the development of Criteria Based
Content Analysis (CBCA), (Stellar and Kohnken, 1989).
After much empirical testing CBCA is generally considered
the most systematised aspect of the overall Statement Validity
Analysis procedure. CBCA incorporates a checklist of 14
characteristics or criteria that could present in a Subjects
version of events.
Many peer reviewed research studies conducted between mid
50’s and late 90’s supported the Undeutsch hypothesis.
In the early 70’s, Undeutsch developed Statement
Content Analysis. During the mid 70’s he conducted
a series of 6 Day lectures throughout the USA, teaching
SCAN to Law Enforcement Agencies.
Not long thereafter, A SCAN student Avi Sapir (A Polygraphist
and Cryptographer ) expanded upon Undeutsch’s teachings
and began to use and teach SCAN with a slightly different
methodology. Sapir, who holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology
& Criminology, & a Masters Degree in Criminology,
further developed SCAN to become an extremely powerful investigative
tool. More powerful and accurate than Polygraph and CVSA.
Sapir also uses the acronym SCAN, but with his modified
techniques it refers to Scientific Content Analysis.
Sapirs version of SCAN is used by most intelligence agencies
worldwide and by scores of investigators and polygraph examiners.
It is not a simple task to find a knowledgeable Instructor
form whom to learn the techniques and applications of Statement
Veracity Analysis ( Statement Content Analysis & CBCA
). Instructors are
available in Germany and can be found by contacting the
Undeutsch family. A practicing SCAN & CBCA Instructor
(Clifton Coetzee) can be found in South Africa via the Truth
The SCAN technique of Avi Sapir can be acquired by contacting
the LSI Inc (Phoenix Az USA).
Statement Analysis is also taught by FBI Instructors. Special
Agent Susan H Adams teaches statement analysis as part of
interviewing and interrogation courses at the FBI Academy.
AN INTRODUCTION TO STATEMENT ANALYSIS ( AUTHOR:
Susan H. Adams, M.A.)
(In statement analysis, investigators examine words,
independent of case facts, to detect deception.)
Susan Smith stood outside her burgundy sedan and released
the parking brake. The car plunged down the ramp into South
Carolina's Long Lake, with her sons, Michael, 3, and Alexander,
14 months, strapped into their car seats. To cover her actions,
Susan told police that the boys were abducted at gunpoint,
launching a nationwide search for the victims and their
abductor. During the investigation, Susan tearfully told
"My children wanted me. They needed me. And now
I can't help them."1 Yet, the boys' father, David,
who believed Susan's story, tried to reassure her by saying:
"They're okay. They're going to be home soon."2
Police subsequently arrested Susan for the murder of
her children. She was tried and convicted and is currently
serving a life sentence in a South Carolina correctional
Many investigators use a technique called "statement
analysis" to discern the truth in statements like the
ones given by Susan and David Smith. In statement analysis,
investigators examine words, independent of case facts,
to detect deception. They also remain alert for information
omitted and question why the suspect may have done so. Investigators
then analyze the clues unintentionally provided by a suspect
and use this insight during the subsequent interview.
In the case of Susan Smith, by analyzing the statements
made by the victims' parents, one could conclude that the
father believed the boys were alive and the mother knew
the children were dead. The key to this deduction lies in
simple English grammar, specifically, verb tense. The father
referred to the children in the present tense; the mother
used the past tense. Of all times, when the "abducted"
children really would need their mother, she speaks of them
in the past tense, e.g., "They needed me." The
children could no longer want or need her because they were
no longer alive.
This article gives a brief overview of statement analysis.
It examines four components of statement analysis--parts
of speech (pronouns, nouns, and verbs), extraneous information,
lack of conviction, and the balance of the statement.
A word of caution is warranted here. There is much
more to statement analysis than what is provided in this
article; space limitations preclude incorporating other
statement analysis components, such as the remaining parts
of speech and the numerous indicators of missing information.
Still, armed with the information presented in this
article, investigators will be able to use these basic techniques
to gain insight into a suspect prior to conducting an interview.
By learning more about a suspect and determining whether
that person is being deceptive, they have a much better
chance of identifying the guilty party and gaining a confession.
Statement analysis follows a two-step process. First, investigators
determine what is typical of a truthful statement, referred
to as the norm. They then look for any deviation from this
norm. Truthful statements differ from fabricated ones in
both content and quality.3
Although spoken words can be analyzed, investigators
inexperienced in statement analysis will find it easier
to begin by examining written statements. Investigators
can make transcripts of oral statements. Or, even better,
they can have suspects write a statement that details what
they did from the time they woke up until the time they
went to bed. This account provides a totally untainted version
of the day's events and increases the validity of the analysis.
Statement analysis is an aid that can be used to obtain
a confession; it is not an end in itself. Therefore, whenever
possible, investigators should analyze the statement before
interviewing the suspect.
IMPORTANT PARTS OF SPEECH
Parts of speech form the foundation of statement analysis.
To analyze a statement, investigators first need to examine
the individual parts of speech, particularly pronouns, nouns,
and verbs, and to establish the norm for each. If a deviation
from the norm appears, they then should ask, "Why?"
Pronouns are parts of speech that take the place of nouns.
Common examples of personal pronouns include I, me, you,
he, she, we, they, and it. In statement analysis, particular
attention should be given to the personal pronouns "I"
and "we" and all possessive pronouns, such as
my, our, your, his, her, etc.
THE PRONOUN "I"
Investigators have noted that truthful people give statements
using the pronoun "I," which is first person,
singular. Any deviation from this norm deserves close scrutiny,
for it could be an indication that the person is not totally
committed to the facts in the statement and, therefore,
is not telling the whole truth.
The following written narrative begins with a clear
commitment, then shows a definite lack of commitment:
"I got up at 7:00 when my alarm went off. I took a
shower and got dressed. I decided to go out for breakfast.
I went to the McDonald's on the corner. Met a man who lives
nearby. Talked with him for a few minutes. I finished breakfast
and drove to work."
The first four sentences of the statement match the
norm of first person, singular--the use of the pronoun "I";
the next two sentences show deviation, because this pronoun
is missing from the statement. What caused the writer to
stop using the pronoun "I"?
Any change in the use of pronouns is significant, and
at this point, investigators should realize that the statement
now becomes devoid of personal involvement. Could there
be tension between the writer and the man mentioned in the
statement? During the interview, investigators should draw
out specifics about this relationship to determine if this
part of the narrative is really true or if the writer omitted
I VERSUS WE
Because using the first person, singular pronoun is the
norm for truthful statements, investigators need to look
for a lack of the pronoun "I" and overuse of the
pronoun "we," which is first person, plural. The
following version of a teen-ager's account when asked to
relate what he did on Saturday evening illustrates the norm:
"I met four friends at the movie theater, watched
a movie,then stopped to get something to eat with them.
We had a few drinks at the bar on the way home. I stayed
until just after midnight. I drove home...."
The following version of the same account, when contrasted
with the above statement, indicates deviation from the norm:
“We all met at the movie theater, watched a movie,
then stopped to get something to eat. We had a few drinks
at the bar on the way home. We stayed until just after midnight.
We each drove home...."
Because the second statement contains only "we,"
instead of the expected norm, which uses mostly "I,"
the investigator should wonder why there is no individual
involvement. Perhaps the teenager hopes to conceal something
or at least to avoid sole responsibility for some act.
THE PRONOUN "WE"
In speech and the written word, linguists consider the shortest
way to say something as the easiest and clearest way to
communicate. The pronoun "we" is a short, clear
way to describe one's self and others after proper introductions
have been made.
"We" also denotes togetherness; it indicates
a relationship between persons.
Omission of the pronoun "we" is significant,
particularly when the individuals are spouses. In the following
versions of an account of events given by a husband, the
first statement indicates the norm; the second one denotes
"My wife and I were invited to a neighbor's 50th
birthday Party. We arrived at the party a little late. The
party was still in full swing when we left for home."
* * *
"My wife and I were invited to a neighbor's 50th birthday
party. My wife and I arrived at the party a little
late. The party was still in full swing when my wife and
I left for home."
The second statement reveals distance between the husband
and his wife. Once the husband introduces his wife into
the statement, using the pronoun "we" is the shortest
way to communicate. Yet, the husband avoids this word. Why?
Perhaps because there is no "togetherness" in
If later that night the wife is murdered, and the husband,
when recounting the day's activities, provides a statement
devoid of the pronoun "we," investigators questioning
the husband should focus on the couple's relationship. If
the husband admits to marital problems, but vehemently denies
any involvement in the death, investigators may clear him
as a suspect, barring contrary evidence. However, if the
husband responds that the couple was very close, investigators
should be wary, because statement
ANALYSIS REVEALS OTHERWISE.
A shift from "they" to "we" also is
significant, for it reveals personal involvement. In white-collar
crime cases, the guilty person who denies complicity may
find it difficult to keep the pronoun "we" out
of a statement completely. In such instances, investigators
need to search the entire written statement for "we."
Then, during the interview, they should focus on the transaction
described with "we." This pronoun indicates that
the writer was involved.
Another example of this shift in the use of pronouns
often can be found in alleged rape reports. In the following
two statements taken from rape reports, the focus is on
the pronoun "we":
"He forced me into the woods,"
"We went into the woods."
The first statement represents the norm. The second
statement, which contains the pronoun "we," is
a deviation from the norm.
Veteran rape investigators are alert to the sudden
appearance of the pronoun "we" in a victim's statement.
From their experience interviewing rape victims, they have
normed the rape victim to use the pronouns "he"
and "I," not the pronoun "we," to describe
the assailant and herself.
Because the pronoun "we" denotes togetherness,
the investigator reading "we" in an alleged rape
statement should ask if the victim knew the assailant and
if they were together before the rape occurred. If the victim
denies this, there is reason to believe the statement is
In reports of an abduction, the use of the pronoun
"we" also can indicate that the victim may not
be telling the whole truth. For example, a young woman who
reported that she had been abducted at a shopping center
provided the following written statement:
"I parked and started getting out of my car when
a white male about 200 pounds, 6 feet tall approached me
and told me to get in the car or he would hurt me. He then
got in the back. I got in the front and began to drive.
He told me to drive west on the highway. He asked me if
I had any money. I told him no. We drove for about an hour.
During that hour, he hit me repeatedly on the right side
of my face. When we got to the exit, I told him I had no
gas. He got mad and told me to get off the exit. We went
straight off the exit for about 4 5 miles. He told me to
turn down the first street on my left. We went down it about
1/4 of a mile. He told me to stop. He opened the door, put
both feet out, hit me, and took off walking quickly. He
took off to the east of where I was parked. After that,
I took off and lost sight of him."
Investigators experienced in statement analysis would
question the truthfulness of the above declaration. A true
abduction statement, when normed, includes phrases like
"He forced me to drive..." or "He made me
get off at the exit...." Traumatized victims who are
telling the truth do not use the pronoun "we"
to describe assailants and themselves.
Investigators concluded that the above statement revealed
deception. When interviewed, the woman subsequently confessed
that no abduction occurred. She was, in fact, with a man
Possessive pronouns, e.g., my, our, your, his, her, and
their, reveal the attachment that the writer or speaker
acknowledges toward a person or object. A suspect will change
the pronoun, or drop the pronoun completely, when opting
not to show possession or admit association with a particular
object or person. For example, "I was cleaning my gun.
I was putting my gun away. The gun discharged."
This person, wanting to disclaim ownership of the gun
that discharged (either accidentally or intentionally),
stopped using the possessive pronoun "my." It
no longer was his gun, under his control; it became the
Another example can be found in a written statement
made by a person whose home burned to the ground:
"I left my house right after breakfast to join
my friends at the track for the day.... I drove back to
my house, made a few phone calls, then went out to dinner
with Stan Thompson.... Stan dropped me off at my house around
10:00. After I changed my clothes I left the house to spend
the night at my cousin Tom's. Around midnight we heard fire
engines and got up to see what was going on."
In this account, after the writer consistently used
the pronoun "my" to describe his house, he omitted
the pronoun the last time it was mentioned. Was it because
the house burned down, and it was no longer his house? If
so, then this change should have occurred much later, after
midnight, when the writer learned that the house was burning.
Based on the statements made, investigators should
question why the switch in references occurred the last
time the writer was in the house. Was it because the writer
had spread accelerant on the floor of the house? Was the
writer already giving up possession because he had set the
fire? Just as arson investigators try to discover if valuable
possessions have been removed from a house prior to a fire,
those skilled in statement analysis look for the exact point
at which the owner stops taking possession by failing to
use the pronoun "my."
Nouns denote persons, places, and things. Yet, nouns take
on different meanings, depending on the individual.
When examining the words used by a suspect, the investigator
needs to note any changes, because a "change of language
reflects a change in reality."4 If suspects substitute
a different word after using one word consistently, they
telegraph the fact that something in their lives has changed.
Although language changes can occur with any part of speech,
they are observed more frequently with nouns.
In a statement written by a suspect in a homicide investigation,
a significant change in noun usage occurred. A young man
shot his wife in the face with a shotgun. The woman died
instantly, and the husband claimed the shooting was accidental.
Investigators asked the man to write a statement of the
events that occurred during the day of the shooting. The
husband wrote a detailed statement, using the noun "wife"
seven times to refer to his wife. He then wrote:
"...I lost control of the gun. I sensed that
the barrel was pointing in Louise's direction and I reacted
by grabbing at the gun to get it back under control. When
I did this the gun discharged. It went off once and I looked
over and saw blood on Louise's face."
What caused the husband to start using "Louise,"
his wife's first name? Did this occur at a significant point
in the narrative? Prior to this point, investigators had
‘normed’ the husband as using the noun "wife."
When the spouse went to church with her husband, she was
"my wife." When she later called to her husband,
she was "my wife." But when the barrel of the
gun was pointing in her direction and when there was blood
on her face, two critical points in the statement, the spouse
was no longer referred to as "my wife." She became
Louise. Investigators have determined that perpetrators
find it nearly impossible to admit to harming a family member.
The husband in this case could not admit that he had killed
his wife. He removed the family relationship by substituting
the name "Louise."
The husband also failed to introduce Louise to the
reader. After using the noun "wife" seven times,
the name "Louise" suddenly appears. The reader
does not know for certain who Louise is. It only can be
assumed that Louise is the wife, but the husband gave no
proper introduction, such as "my wife, Louise."
The norm for healthy relationships is a proper, clear
introduction. But in tumultuous relationships, introductions
often are confusing or missing completely. The lack of a
proper introduction most likely indicates a poor relationship
between the husband and his wife. Knowledge of this prior
to the interview could assist investigators in uncovering
Verbs express action, either in the past,
present, or future. In statement analysis, the tense of
the verb is of utmost importance. When analyzing statements,
investigators need to concentrate on the tense of the verbs
used. In a truthful statement, the use of the past tense
is the norm, because by the time a person relates the event,
it has already occurred.
For example, the following statement typifies the norm:
"It happened Saturday night. I went out on my back
deck to water the plants. It was almost dark. A man ran
out of the bushes. He came onto the deck, grabbed me and
knocked me down."
The next statement shows deviation from the norm: "It
happened Saturday night. I went out on my back deck to water
the plants. It was almost dark. A man runs out of the bushes.
He comes onto the deck, grabs me and knocks me down."
The shift to present tense is significant, because
events recalled from memory should be stated by using the
past tense. The change to present tense could indicate deception.
Knowing this, an investigator interviewing the victim of
the second statement is forewarned that the account may
The use of past or present tense also is significant
when referring to missing persons. In such cases, the norm
is to describe the person in the present tense, as in, "I
just pray that Jenny is all right."
When children are missing, in the parents' hearts and
minds, the children remain alive, sometimes long after the
point of reason. As evidenced in the Susan Smith case, use
of past tense almost immediately after the alleged abduction
showed a significant deviation from the norm.
Extraneous information in a statement also can provide
clues to deception. A truthful person with nothing to hide,
when asked the question, "What happened," will
recount the events chronologically and concisely. Any information
given that does not answer this question is extraneous.
People involved in crimes may feel the need to justify
their actions. In such cases, the information in the statements
will not follow a logical time frame or will skirt what
really happened. They also may include more information
than is necessary to tell the story. In such instances,
investigators should scrutinize this extraneous information
and question why this person felt the need to include it.
For example, in a homicide investigation involving
a young woman shot by her husband, the husband told police
officers that he was cleaning his gun when it accidentally
discharged. Investigators then asked the husband to write
a statement about his actions on the day he shot his wife.
He provided a detailed statement, writing at length about
the rust on his gun and a previous hunting trip. He failed,
however, to describe fully his activities on this specific
day. The amount of extraneous information prompted the investigator
to view the husband as a suspect.
LACK OF CONVICTION
Another important factor in statement analysis is a person's
lack of conviction. When analyzing a statement, investigators
should note if the person feigns a loss of memory by repeatedly
inserting "I don't remember" or "I can't
They also should look to see if the person hedges during
the narrative by using such phrases as "I think,"
"I believe," "to the best of my knowledge,"
or "kind of." These phrases, also called qualifiers,
serve to temper the action about to be described, thereby
discounting the message before it even is transmitted.5
Clearly, the person giving the statement is avoiding commitment,
and warning bells should ring in the
The following is a transcript of an oral statement
of a college student who reported that a man broke into
her apartment at 3:30 a.m. and raped her. A statement regarding
such a traumatic experience should brim with conviction,
which this statement clearly lacks.
"He grabbed me and held a knife to my throat.
And when I woke up and I was, I mean I was really asleep
and I didn't know what was going on, and I kind of you know
I was scared and I kind of startled when I woke up, You
know, You know I was startled and he, he told, he kept telling
me to shut up and he asked me if I could feel the knife."
It is important to consider the phrase, "I kind
of startled when I woke up." Certainly, this is not
a normal reaction for a woman who awakens in the middle
of the night to see an unknown man at her bed and to feel
a knife at her throat. The word "terrified" more
appropriately comes to mind. Using the words "kind
of startled" shows a gross deviation from the expected
normal reaction of terror.
Another example of lack of conviction can be found
in a written statement given by a relative of a woman who
mysteriously disappeared. Investigators asked the missing
woman's sister-in-law to recount the activities that took
place on the weekend of the disappearance. After claiming
memory lapses and showing a general lack of specificity,
the sister-in-law ended her statement with:
"...that was about it. These were my actions
on the weekend to the best I can recall."
Any investigator reading the above statement should
seriously question whether the events were described accurately
BALANCE OF THE STATEMENT
A statement given by a suspect or an alleged victim
should be examined by investigators for overall balance.
Statements should be more than just a series of details.
They need to sound like an account of the event.
A truthful statement has three parts. The first part
details what was going on before the event occurred; it
places the event in context. The second part describes the
occurrence itself, i.e., what happened during the theft,
the rape, the fire, etc. The last part tells what occurred
after the event, including actions and emotions, and should
be at least as long as the first part.
The more balanced the three parts of the statement,
the greater the probability that the statement is true.6
A statement containing the same number of lines in the before,
during, and after parts, i.e., 33 1/3 percent in each part,
indi-cates truth,although some degree of variation from
perfect balance can be expected.
If any part of a statement is incomplete or missing
altogether,then the statement is probably false. The following
breakdown of a statement written by a man whose home burned
shows a deviation too great from the balanced norm. The
man provided a 56-line account of what happened that day,
divided as follows:
BEFORE the fire: 33 lines -59.0%
DURING the fire: 16 lines - 28.5%
AFTER the fire: 7 lines - 12.5%.
Investigators concluded that the above distribution
indicates deception, because the three parts of the statement
are clearly out of balance. The "before" section
is too long and the "after" section is too short.
Examination of the statement revealed that in the first
part, the writer provided too much information totally unrelated
to the fire. This signaled the investigators to ask themselves,
"Is the writer stalling or trying to justify his actions?"
Also, the statement contained sparse information on
what happened after the fire and lacked any indication of
emotion. There was no sign of anger, shock, or sense of
loss. The writer, who showed no concern about the consequences
of the fire, ultimately confessed to setting it.
Statements contain a wealth of information far beyond
what the suspect or alleged victim intends to communicate.
Fortunately, investigators can use this information to their
Statement analysis provides investigators with vital
background data and details about relationships to explore
during the interview process. It also can determine whether
the intent of the statement is to convey or to convince,
that is, to convey the truth or to convince through deception.7
Armed with this knowledge, investigators can enter the interview
room with increased confidence to identify the perpetrator
and gain a confession.
ª Truth Extraction (Clifton Coetzee
ISBN 0864864647 )
1 The Washington Post, November 5, 1994, A15.
2 The Washington Post, July 26, 1995, A7.
3 Udo Undeutsch published this hypothesis in German in 1967.
It also was reported in "The Development of Statement
Reality Analysis," Credibility Assessment, ed. John
C. Yuille (The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
NATO ASI Series, 1989). The Germans generally are credited
with the advancement of statement analysis for investigative
purposes. German psychologists devised a system to assess
the credibility of statements made by children in child
abuse cases. Called criteria-based content analysis, the
technique became mandated in German courts in 1954 in cases
involving a disputed allegation of sexual abuse of a child.
4 Avinoam Sapir, Scientific
Content Analysis (SCAN) (Phoenix, AZ: Laboratory of Scientific
Interrogation, 1987), 52.
5 Walter Weintrab, Verbal Behavior in Everyday Life (New
York, NY: Springer Publishing Co., 1989), 13.
6 Don Rabon, Investigative Discourse Analysis (Durham, NC:
Carolina Academic Press, 1994), 17.