Updated 08 April 2014

What is the police psychologist looking for in Oscar's testimony?

A police psychologist is monitoring Pistorius' testimony. Here's why.


The news broke this morning that the SAPS have deployed a clinical psychologist to monitor the testimony of the accused, Oscar Pistorius. While the prosecution are not obliged to explain the reasoning behind this, it is relatively common occurrence.

The psychologist, Major Bronwynn Stollarz, will likely be looking for several things in the testimony. Firstly, she will be looking to identify parts of the testimony where the accused seems unsure of himself. She will also be looking for signs that Pistorius might be tailoring the truth, or lying.

This, of course, does not mean it is certain that Oscar will lie. It is worth noting that the defence team also has a psychologist in its employ.

Read more: Why is Oscar vomiting in court?

Pistorius’ testimony will not be shown on camera, but the audio stream will be available. Here’s what you should be listening out for. The live feed of the testimony can be found here.

  1.        Tone of voice. When someone lies, their voice often deviates from their normal speaking tone. It will tend to be higher than usual, but in some cases it can be notably lower.
  2.        Keeping it vague. A witness who sticks to the simple facts and avoids delving into detail could be trying to avoid tripping themselves up.
  3.        Hesitation. Upon being asked a question, somebody who isn’t telling the truth may need a few moments to compose their response.
  4.        Liars tend to avoid the pronouns “I” or “we” as they feel detached from the situation they are creating.
  5.        Heavy breathing can also be a sign of the tension involved in lying.
  6.        Unable to work backwards. Witnesses are often coached to tell their story from start to finish, and this can make it difficult if during cross-examination they are asked to repeat it out of order or in reverse.

Pamela Meyer, a certified fraud examiner, recently spoke at TED about spotting a liar. Watch the following video:

Read more:
The biggest liar ever
Why people lie
Lies lovers tell

Sources:Huffington Post/Daily Mail/Mind Reality

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