Politics and Deception (Final Post)

By Humintell Director Dr. David Matsumoto

Over the last few weeks, we’ve discussed politics, deception and the media.

You can view Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.


There are both verbal and nonverbal indicators to truthfulness and deception, and this week I would like to turn our attention to one of the verbal indicators of deception that I often think about when I watch politicians answer questions in the news. This indicator is known as “Extraneous Information.” This is information that does not answer the question posed, and may be used to justify the liars’ actions, deflect the question because they may not want to respond to that specific question, help liars distance themselves from the act of lying or the content of the lie, or aid liars in exerting control over the interview.

For example take a look at this video clip of Hillary Clinton answering a yes/no question about whether, as president, she would sign a bill favoring the Keystone Pipeline (starts at 1:24)

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Note that the question is clearly a yes/no question, but instead of answering it clearly she responds with extraneous information: “Well…as you know…I was the Secretary of State who started that process….” And then she goes on to not answer the question.

Or look take a look at this video clip of Donald Trump answering a question about whether a woman should or should not be punished for having an abortion (starts at 0:14)

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He responds, “People in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say yes, they should be punished.” Note he didn’t answer the question.

Of course Extraneous Information, like any indicator of truthfulness or deception, is never failproof or foolproof as a sure sign of truth telling or lying. But they do give signs to the mental state of the individual, and when used correctly in a probing, strategized interview can be very effective in helping investigators to ferret out truth from lies.

Nowadays it is easy to see the television networks displaying approval/disapproval ratings from viewers as politicians talk. A meter that notches each time a politician offers Extraneous Information in response to a question may also be an interesting idea for the viewing public.


Continue your journey on evaluating truthfulness and detecting deception by taking some of our exclusive online training not available anywhere else.

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