Identifying a Virtual Suspect

Being a good cop – Identifying a Virtual Suspect

Lying is a complex cognitive task and yet people think it would be easy to tell if somebody is lying. Psychological studies are clearly telling us that the lie detection rate is not much above the chance level. Even trained professionals such as detectives are not better at distinguishing between liars and truth-tellers. Why is that? They rely on the wrong cues of lie indication such as looking to the left (Wiseman et al. 2012) or no eye contact. These stereotypes about lying are not empirically sustained. But for example you can say that if persons are lying for instance about a crime more speaking errors and more pauses occur, they talk slower while lesser hand and arm movement takes place. These indicators are the results of a meta-analysis of DePaulo et al. (2003) which are extended by the verbal indicators of deception Steller & Köhnken (1989) stated. However, no scientific evidence were found for directions of sight while lying (Wiseman, Watt, ten Brinke, Porter, Couper & Rankin, 2012).

With our training we want to make people more sensitive to indicators of not saying the truth. Thus we especially want to reach police and store detectives who interrogate suspects after a crime has been committed. The training goals are learning which verbal, paraverbal and nonverbal indicators are important when dealing with a suspect, thus identifying suspicious behavior, getting to know critical questions and trying to identify the truth. Therefore, also learning to listen to a suspect and viewing everything as a whole are critical points of the training and finally the selection of the alleged offender should take place.

Therefore, we built a training software. We developed a game which is sectioned in a tutorial phase and a game phase. In the tutorial, we use a virtual character which exhibits various indicators with both suspicious and non-suspicious behavior. These indicator would later guide the trainee to find the most suspicious person in the game or interrogation phase. With the introduction of the interrogation phase, we narrate a case and present four virtual suspects. On the basis of knowledge gained by the tutorial training, the trainee must identify the most suspicious person by interrogating all four of them one by one. At the end of each interrogation, we ask the trainee to select the checkboxes of the indicators that s/he thought were exhibited by the latest interrogated virtual character. The trainee gets ten points for correct answers and zero points for incorrect or no answers. At the end of the interrogation, we also ask the trainee to select which virtual character s/he think is the most suspicious person. When the trainee answers correctly, s/he receives 100 points additionally and otherwise zero.

The psychologists delivered the content and the theoretical background. Hence, we developed a criminal case for the game with characters with different motives and looks. We put thoughts in the indicators they might use in particular. In addition, we wrote dialogues with questions a detective would ask the suspects and answers this suspects would give. Out of these, we designed question trees for each character. For the voices of the characters and the detective in the background we recorded students who have acting experience.

Furthermore we developed a tutorial with an introduction describing the things one can learn with our training. Ten indicators were selected and for each short example texts and descriptions were written. Besides the voices for the example texts we also recorded a narrator who guides through the tutorial.


DePaulo, B. M., Lindsay, J. J., Malone, B. E., Muhlenbruck, L., Charlton, K., & Cooper, H. (2003). Cues to deception. Psychological bulletin, 129, 74.

Steller, M. & Köhnken, G. (1989). Criteria-based statement analysis: Credibility assessment of children’s statements in sexual abuse cases. In D. C. Raskin (Ed.), Psychological methods for investigation and evidence (pp. 217–245). New York: Springer.

Wiseman, R., Watt, C., Ten Brinke, L., Porter, S., Couper, S. L., & Rankin, C. (2012). The eyes don’t have it: lie detection and neuro-linguistic programming. PloS one, 7.