How does an innocent person react when accused

Why Anger Makes a Wrongly Accused Person Look Guilty

A co-worker accuses you of lying during an important client meeting, and you’re furious because you didn’t lie. Expressing that anger, however, isn’t the best way to prove your innocence, according to new research.

“People may misinterpret that anger as a sign of guilt,” says Harvard Business School professor Leslie K. John, whose paper Anger Damns the Innocent is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science. In a series of experiments, John and her colleagues—Katherine DeCelles of the University of Toronto, Gabrielle Adams of the University of Virginia, and Holly Howe of Duke University—found that anger can make a person come across as guilty even when they are not.

Too often, when an employee is accused of wrongdoing, people evaluating the situation can make snap judgments based on biases and hunches. This research shows how easy it is for others to make the wrong call about whether an accused person has committed the offense, based on the emotions he or she expresses. Such an unfair judgment can have grave consequences, affecting the accused person’s career and even leading to job loss.

"People who are falsely accused, of course, have every reason to be angry."

The researchers were inspired to investigate the link between anger and guilt five years ago after discussing true crime documentaries and the dynamics of the falsely accused being interviewed by police.

“As behavioral scientists, we wondered what faulty reasoning processes may lead to putting an innocent person behind bars,” says John, the Marvin Bower Associate Professor at HBS. “People who are falsely accused, of course, have every reason to be angry. But we wondered whether displays of anger may be misinterpreted as a sign of guilt.”

First, the team set out to investigate whether people infer guilt from anger. Then, they looked at whether displays of anger related to actual guilt.

Anger isn’t a good look

The authors conducted several studies to examine these questions. In one experiment, the researchers showed participants clips from the courtroom reality TV show Judge Faith featuring a variety of accusations involving shady neighbors, moving company mishaps, and reckless drivers.

Participants rated how angry and guilty they thought the TV courtroom parties were. Sure enough, the angrier the participants considered the accused, the guiltier they believed them to be. To help explain this effect, the researchers also documented that people who express anger appear untrustworthy and less authentic.

In another experiment, the research team had participants read fictitious scenarios involving a man named Nathan who was either accused of infidelity by his partner or of stealing money by a co-worker. In each scenario, the researchers randomized Nathan’s response, telling subjects he either calmly denied the allegation, or flew off the handle and yelled angrily when confronted.

Participants on average rated the guilt of the angry Nathan a damning 6. 3 on a 7-point scale, while rating a calm Nathan at only 2.9. A separate experiment showed that this judgment happens even when an accused person expresses mild anger—in the form of irritation. In short, people tend to deem anger, even when subtle, to be indicative of guilt.

The wrongly accused react with anger

Next, the researchers investigated whether this perception is accurate: Are the guilty angrier than the innocent? In other words, is anger a cue of guilt? The answer, as it turns out, is no.

To investigate this question, the researchers asked people to recall an incident in which they’d been accused of either a minor offense such as lying, or a major offense such as committing a crime. The researchers then asked how angry they were and how much they expressed that anger.

Participants consistently recalled expressing more anger when they were wrongfully accused than when they actually did something wrong. The more serious the accusation, the angrier they reacted—and many said what made them especially mad was being unfairly judged.

"It seems to be inherently more aggravating to be accused of something you haven’t done because there’s the added element of it being unjust."

The experiment provided more evidence that when people see anger as a sign of guilt, they are often jumping to the wrong conclusion. “It’s actually more likely to be a sign of innocence than of guilt,” John says. “It seems to be inherently more aggravating to be accused of something you haven’t done because there’s the added element of it being unjust.”

To further verify their findings, the researchers set up an experiment to see if they could elicit those feelings of anger in real time. They gave participants a written task and told them they’d receive money for correct answers. The task was either easy, capitalizing the first and last letter of a paragraph, or more difficult, deleting every adverb in a paragraph.

Then, at the end of the experiment, they accused all participants—regardless of whether they had actually done the task correctly—of having done the task incorrectly. This enabled the researchers to manipulate whether people were falsely versus accurately accused. Those in the easy task condition, who by and large did the task correctly, experienced a false accusation. By contrast, those in the difficult task condition, who by and large did the task incorrectly, experienced an accurate accusation.

The researchers asked participants how angry they felt and found that participants who had experienced a false accusation were angrier than those who had experienced an accurate accusation. At the end of the experiment, all participants were compensated.

Staying calm

Based on the results, John recommends that people try to remain calm when they’ve been unfairly blamed. Of course, the idea of keeping cool can seem especially galling for people who have previously experienced the injustice of being falsely accused.

“It’s always tough to control your emotions in the moment,” she says, “but if someone falsely accuses you of padding your resume or switching your sales numbers, although it’s totally valid to feel anger, it’s not a good idea to express it. ” DeCelles adds, “When being accused, we know from other research that it is good to indicate a willingness to be cooperative. Anger seems to signal the opposite to others—that you’re hiding something.”

If the accusation comes over email, she adds, it might be a good practice to take a break so you can respond once you’ve calmed down.

On the flip side, if you are a manager and are in a position to judge a worker’s guilt or innocence over a workplace mishap, it may be wise to disregard the person’s emotional demeanor. “While future work needs to examine better tactics, approaching them with curiosity, open mindedness, and concern, rather than with an outright accusation, might help elicit answers rather than anger,” says DeCelles.

"Rather than relying on a person’s facial expressions, try and get the data and see if the claim has merit before you decide on guilt."

“That’s not always easy to do,” admits John, but the more you can get to the bottom of an issue by talking through it, she says, the more likely you are to get it right. “If you suspect an employee of wrongdoing, rather than relying on a person’s facial expressions or other reactions, try and get the data and see if the claim has merit before you decide on guilt.”

DeCelles emphasized that “those who are guilty might express anger, perhaps as a strategic attempt to look morally incensed, being angry at procedural issues rather than the accusation itself, or even not accurately remembering their transgression. But the research shows that, on average, the falsely versus correctly accused seem to both feel and express anger more strongly.”

About the Author

Michael Blanding is a writer based in the Boston area.
[Image: Shutterstock/AntGor]

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Signs Someone Is Lying to You

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What if something is just "off?" Shutterstock

Catching someone in a lie is a sticky situation. But what if you can't tell if they're lying or not? 

If you suspect someone's being untruthful, there are a few things you can do to try and sniff out their unsavory behavior — even without a lie detector test. 

Pick up on their posture.

Are they slouching? Pexels/Leah Kelley

Someone who is lying will often show it with their body language. Oftentimes, they will shrink in on themselves, slouching and slumping to subconsciously protect their body while they're deceiving you. 

"As a rule, the more someone allows their body to be open the more likely it is that they are being honest. That is because when your body is open you are more physically vulnerable," psychologist John Paul Garrison told INSIDER. "If you observe someone change their body language to close of their body or do behaviors to calm themselves (e.g., touching their face, rubbing their forehead) then it is possible they are lying."

Look them in the eye.

Eye contact is key. Unsplash/Brooke Cagle

We've all heard the phrase "look me in the eyes" in reference to when someone is lying. But it turns out there is actually a lot of truth to that: Lack of eye contact is one of the first non-verbal signs that someone is being deceitful. 

Eye contact is something personal and intimate. If someone is lying, they often want to disengage with you and de-personalize the situation. 

Notice the rate of their movement.

If they're not moving a muscle, that's a red flag. Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock

Lying people typically want to trick the questioner into thinking they're clamer than they are, so their movements will reflect that.  

Oftentimes they will keep their hands at their sides, sit extremely still, speak slowly, and keep their facial movements to a minimum. Because they may be trying to fake an aura of calm, these behaviors can actually be a huge tell that they're lying.

Be warned: This kind of poker-face lying is indicative of a skilled liar, so it can be hard to pick up on.


Pay attention to their story.

Listen closely. Flickr/Strelka Institute for Media

Unless they're incredibly skilled at lying, most liars will have inconsistencies in their story.  

Did they talk about meeting a different friend before? Did they mention a store that's gone out of business? Did they claim to speak with a person who you know has been out of the country? 

If you're suspicious, listen closely to their story. Catching them in a lie may be as easy as questioning one slip-up. 

Lean in.

Liars will turn away. Public Domain

If the person you're accusing of lying is leaning away from you, that could be a tell-tale sign that they're uncomfortable and their body is betraying them and exposing that.  

Check to see if the person crosses their legs away from you, turns their back to you, or places their hands on their opposite side from you. You can also pay attention and see if they are leaning towards or pointing their feet towards the exit in a room, Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer for, told INSIDER.

If this happens, increase your body language towards them. See how they respond — people do not like to be exposed to intimacy and close quarters when they're lying.

Take stock of their response.

Crocodile tears. Unsplash/dahiana candelo

If you accuse someone of lying or question their story, pay attention to how they respond. An innocent person may be offended and question you, but a guilty party may go much further in their defense of themselves.

"Good liars will often have a quick and smooth response and use tactics that will redirect attention back to you or incite some kind of emotional response in you that can divert attention away from them and the lie," said Manhattan psychologist Joseph Cilona.

You may be able to expect tears, screaming, and accusations against you if this person is actually lying. Push past it to get to the truth if you truly think they're full of it. 

Pay attention to how they shake their head.

SMH. Tim Gouw/Pexels

Your body can betray you so often when lying and even a simple tip of the head can be your doom.  

"Former CIA officers take the identification of cues a step further to discover if someone is lying," Lavelle said. "One example mentioned is verbal/non-verbal disconnect if someone is saying 'yes,' but shaking their head no, this is a potential sign of deceit."

Pick up on any differences in their behavior.

Notice anything different? Shutterstock

If this person is normally boisterous but has suddenly become quiet when confronted, you may have a liar on your hands.  

Picking up on some of the differences in their behavior can tip you off as to whether they're telling the truth. Not every tell-tale sign of lying is so clear cut since everyone lies in a different way. This requires some serious attention on your part. 

"The key is to establish a base line for an individual’s behavior and then look for deviations from that baseline in direct response to some stimulus," Jerry Smith, a clinical psychologist former federal law enforcement officer, told me. "An individual deviation or two may suggest an emotional or physiological reaction to something, but does not necessarily mean deception. However, a cluster of deviations in direct response (e.g., within 1-5 seconds of the stimuli and within 1-10 seconds of each other) is a strong indicator that there is an attempt to deceive.

Trust your gut.

If all else fails, you know more than you think you do. Flickr / Daniel Silliman

Sometimes people are really, really good liars and they won't have many tells at all. Still, if your gut tells you they're lying, then that could be all the prompting you need to have a discussion. 

"Even if you aren’t able to pinpoint a mismatch between the verbal and non-verbal message, don’t ignore your gut instinct. It is based on something real," communication expert and author Leslie Shore told INSIDER. 


Read the original article on INSIDER. Copyright 2017.

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How to behave during interrogation —

"Don't renounce money and prison." Unfortunately, in our turbulent times, this phrase can become a reality even for those who are completely unprepared for this. What to do if the police suddenly become interested in you and invite you to a conversation?

We continue to fight the occupier on the information front, providing only verified information and analytics.

The war deprived us of the opportunity to earn money, we ask for your support. nine0003


First, find a good lawyer. If he is really good, he will immediately explain that the concept of "conversation" in the context of communication with law enforcement agencies does not exist, and if the police want to talk to you, this action falls under the concept of "INTERROGATION". Going to him without a lawyer is categorically unacceptable.

But the purpose of this article is not advice on finding a lawyer. These are tips on the necessary mental attitude to cope with the very difficult test that is interrogation. nine0003

It must be clearly understood that there are no and cannot be friends/like-minded people/sympathizers in institutions where they can be invited for interrogation. The investigator and the accused have fundamentally different goals. The task of the investigator is to solve the crime and close the case. The task of the accused is at least not to worsen his situation and not to harm himself. Therefore, do not perceive any behavior of the investigator as his desire to help. Attention! Politeness and ostentatious interest are only tools to get a person to talk and get the information missing from the investigation. If the investigator knew everything and had evidence, then he would not communicate with you. You cannot trust the investigator, and even more so you cannot agree to "cooperate" with him. And it's not that all investigators are bad people. On the contrary, they can be very good and kind. But their job is to extract information from people and imprison them. You have different goals and objectives. nine0003

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The right mental attitude during interrogation is the key to your success. You should not philosophize, engage in polemics or show your oratory skills. The task of the investigator is to talk to you. Don't help him! All questions should be answered as briefly and to the point as possible. It is desirable to be limited to the words "yes" or "no". The more words a person says during an interrogation, the easier it is to get confused, to be caught in inconsistencies. The easier it is for the investigator to cling to something. A person is confused, it is easier to manipulate him, it is easier to drive him into a dead end, he becomes more vulnerable. nine0003

The investigator is a professional. Be professional too.

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If the question requires a description, be as concise as possible. Every word must be carefully considered. It must be remembered that you are not limited in time for answers (the minimum interrogation time is not set, the maximum is 8 hours). Set yourself up for a leisurely pace. You have nowhere to hurry. Answer even the simplest questions slowly and use pauses. Accustom the investigator to a leisurely pace of conversation. If he starts pushing you, honestly admit that you are a little worried and uncomfortable, and your trembling hands (if they really will tremble) are a sign of experience from the fact that you are in an unusual environment. Feeling uncomfortable in such a situation is completely natural. nine0003

During the interrogation, the investigator must keep a record. Your lawyer will follow up, but you also have the right to keep your own notes, including taking down questions from the investigator. Don't miss this opportunity! Have a notepad and pen with you. This will give you time to think about the questions and answers and reduce your anxiety. Let the investigator be nervous, not you. Also remember to bring drinking water and headache pills with you. Use them as needed. Anything that gives you extra time to think is beneficial. If you don't understand a question or you don't know how to answer it, limit yourself to the phrase "difficult to answer". Everything that is said during the interrogation will probably be used against you in court ... if it does get to him. According to statistics, the accusations are based largely on the testimony obtained during interrogations. That is, it is your words and your formulations that can be used against you and make you accused. There are no trifles during interrogation. nine0003

During the interrogation, the investigator will definitely use the methods of mental influence. Its task is to disarm a person, to bring him out of mental balance, to give rise to doubts about the correctness of his position, in other words, to frustrate you. To do this, he will change the tone, pace and focus of the conversation. A technique that every professional investigator uses is to create in a person an exaggerated idea of ​​\u200b\u200bthe evidence he has. The goal is to make you think (believe) that he knows everything. Do not think for the investigator, let him say what he knows, provide evidence, and then react. Don't make his life easier by making yours harder. nine0003

Separately, one should dwell on the differences in the difference in the behavior of a guilty and innocent person:

An innocent person, as a rule, responds to a direct accusation with a violent negative reaction. Guilty - adheres to a wait-and-see attitude.

An innocent person constantly refers to specific points of the accusation, refutes them with factual arguments. Guilty - moves away from specific charges and avoids returning to the main charge.

The innocent is active in his defense. Guilty - passive, he feels guilty and behaves accordingly. nine0003

An innocent person is acutely worried about the prospect of shame, condemnation of colleagues, relatives and friends. The culprit is only interested in possible punishment.

It doesn't matter if you are guilty or not. Act like a person who is innocent.

The behavior of the investigator is aimed at upsetting, undermining your defense and the chosen line of behavior. His task is for you to help him in his goals. If the investigator suddenly becomes nervous, raises his voice or intimidates you, take this as a good sign. Most likely, this means that the prosecution has reached a dead end, and the investigator is screaming, nervous or angry from the realization of his own powerlessness. nine0003

So in case of any aggression on the part of the investigator mentally praise yourself, shut up and wait for the investigator to apologize to you. Do not give out your joy that the investigator is out of balance. Your "jubilation" may cause him a new outbreak of aggression. If there is no apology, and the pressure and insults continue, feel free to demand another investigator.

What behavior of the investigator should be prepared for:

• at the beginning of the conversation - to establish trust and psychological contact with the suspect; nine0003

• talk about neutral topics;

• presenting evidence in ascending order of importance;

• use of surprise;

• the use of antipathy towards participants (people) who are not present during the interrogation;

• creating an exaggerated idea of ​​one's own awareness;

• Emphasis on the conscience and morality of the suspect.

You need to communicate with the investigator in the same way as with any other official. Politely, correctly, but in no case ingratiatingly and not apologetically. The investigator does his job, and you do yours. nine0003

No matter what questions the investigator asks you, no matter how he incinerates you with his eyes or, on the contrary, no matter how sweet and kind he is to you, try to remain calm and calm, do not panic. Remember, panic and sanity are incompatible concepts. And clarity of consciousness and understanding of what is happening in a conversation with an investigator is vital for you.

One must prepare for any test, and interrogation is a serious test for any person. It is necessary to be prepared for it not only legally, but also psychologically. Interrogation is not only a fight between two lawyers, but also a fight between two characters, where all the actions of the investigator are aimed at suppressing the psyche of the accused. nine0003

Remember this!

Lessons from the FBI: how to understand that you are being deceived

How to recognize and expose a liar? Proven advice from a former FBI agent: calm down, understand what causes discomfort, and ask a lot of questions

Are you often deceived? Many of us face situations every day when it is not clear whether a person is telling the whole truth, inventing some details, or frankly lying. How to understand it? Do not interfere with the skills of a lie detector. In the end, understanding that something is being hidden from you will save time, money, negative emotions, and in some cases, save a life. nine0003

Finished reading here

Only a professional can help figure this out, so we turned to Joe Navarro, a former FBI officer with 25 years of experience. As a special agent and head of counterintelligence and counterterrorism, he spearheaded the bureau's elite behavioral analysis unit and wrote the international bestseller I See What You're Thinking.

The X-Files

There is not a single example of specific behavior that indicates deception - the so-called "Pinocchio effect" does not exist (for example, shifty eyes are not always a sign of deception). There are behaviors that indicate psychological discomfort, anxiety, or stress, but these may be due to the setting (testifying), the interlocutor (dislike), or perhaps too intrusive questions. But sometimes it is a sign that a person is lying or has a bad conscience. nine0003

In any case, the most we can do is observe the behavior of a person when asked a question.

And if he shows discomfort, you can think about why this happens.

Here are six basic behaviors that indicate the discomfort of the interlocutor and should make you wary.

1. Compress lips

Compressed lips mean that a person experiences negative emotions. We often see this when people testify. nine0003

2. Heavily arguing

You ask a question, and the person enters into a heated discussion already at the time of the question or answering it. This is a proven indicator of psychological discomfort.

3. Touching the neck

When we touch the neck, especially the jugular fossa, we are either worried, or nervous, or afraid of something. Men disguise this gesture by touching their tie.

4. Turn away with the whole body

Animal denial is a term I coined. People behave this way when it becomes difficult for them to talk about something or the topic is controversial. This is distance behavior. People will do this discreetly, as if they are just squirming in place, but in fact they are gradually turning away from you, even throwing one leg over the other, creating a kind of barrier, while continuing to look into your eyes. This should be especially noticeable if a person behaves this way immediately after being asked a question. nine0003

5. Touching the eyes

Often we touch our eyes when we are asked about something or something bothers us. This action accurately conveys that the issue is complex. You will often see this behavior during board meetings when someone disagrees with the speakers or when what is said is intentionally inaccurate. As I said, the "Pinocchio effect" does not exist, but the aforementioned behavior can often be seen when a person is bothered by something. When I studied the behavior of children born blind, I noticed that they cover their eyes with their hands when they hear something that they do not like. nine0003

6. Drop or hide the thumbs

This gesture is usually not noticed. But it is he who most accurately conveys the state of discomfort. When a person begins to lower or hide their thumbs, I read insecurity or a lack of seriousness about the topic of conversation. This is another sign that there is some kind of problem, because, on the one hand, we are persistent in words, but on the other hand, our body says otherwise.

If a person persistently and sincerely tells something, we see his thumbs. For example, wide apart fingers. The greater the distance, the more convincing and accurate is this observation.

Watch speech

In addition to body language, it is also worth analyzing the features of speech.

Usually we know the personal qualities and behavior of loved ones well, so it is not difficult to replace changes in their behavior and speech. But if you have a stranger or unfamiliar person in front of you, you need to work on his basic behavior, as they do in the FBI. nine0003


We first calm people down to understand how they behave in normal, minimally stressful situations. So by finding out what their baseline behavior is, we can track changes in behavior in relation to a particular issue.

Some people start talking faster, their voice may become higher, or they start making more mistakes in conversation, forced interjections appear, they start coughing, etc.

Liars want to convince you more than just convey a thought. nine0003

Therefore, sometimes they will repeat the same thing several times - just to be believed. Their words become weak at the beginning or end of a statement.

You need to be aware of strategic delays, such as when someone starts with "That's a good question" when answering a question. Such a beginning is used to "forge" the answer. It just so happens that both honest and dishonest people use this tactic, so it does not, by itself, indicate deception. Some people are very careful with their answers, so a lawyer like Bill Clinton will build his sentences very carefully, choosing his words carefully. nine0003

That's the question

What questions should you ask to catch a person in a lie?

Primarily based on emotion, for example: "When you found the body, how did you feel?" The liar knows how to lie about how he found the body, but not about the emotions he experienced, so his story will be "mechanical." After thinking for a bit, he'll say something like, "Well, that was awful." An innocent person himself will tell about the emotions he experienced, and a liar who has just committed a crime is pleased with what he has done, so an emotional conflict will arise in his behavior. nine0003

Here's an example of a question that's easier to imagine in a business environment: "When you found mold in a building, how did you feel?"

Is it possible to open the cards and at some point, realizing that questions cause discomfort to a person, say that you doubt him? In no case is this the mistake of inexperienced beginners.

You must never tell people that you are watching them.

You simply change the subject of the conversation, and then return to the question that caused stress, ask it in a different form, and if this time it causes discomfort, you understand that it is not the situation or the person asking the question, but the person himself. question. nine0003

The best way to expose a liar is to ask more questions and be specific. If you ask someone if they have a tax liability and they start arguing about it, there is reason to start doubting. The only way to find out is to ask even more specific questions. I would ask: “In the first quarter of 2012, were there any problems related to taxes, with debts on their payments? And in the second quarter?

For some, this method may seem too harsh.

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