Expert Q&A With

John R Schafer

John R. “Jack” Schafer, Ph.D. is a professor at Western Illinois University in the Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) Department. He is a retired FBI Special Agent who served as behavioral analyst assigned to FBI's National Security Behavioral Analysis Program.

Dr. Schafer has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics including the psychopathology of hate, ethics in law enforcement, and detecting deception. Dr. Schafer owns his own consulting company and lectures and consults in the United States and abroad.

What does your website offer its visitors?

My website offers people an overview of detecting deception using Psychological Narrative Analysis techniques (PNA). PNA is a cutting edge method to detect deception in both oral and written communications. PNA can also be used to identify behavioral characteristics that will give people an edge in both professional and social settings. The Website also provides access to the store where publications on detecting deception can be purchased.

What is Psychological Narrative Analysis?

Psychological Narrative Analysis is the study of word choices and grammar structures people choose when they communicate. PNA techniques identify specific words, speech patterns, and grammar structures that reveal a person’s behavioral characteristics and veracity.

Both truthful and deceptive people use the same grammar rules to construct sentences. When people obfuscate or omit the truth, they must use accepted grammar structures and speech patterns or their sentences would make no sense. The only difference between truthful statements and deceptive statements is the omission or obfuscation of the truth. PNA identifies and exploits these differences.

Tell us more about your book ‘Psychological Narrative Analysis: A Professional Method to Detect Deception in Written and Oral Communications

Psychological Narrative Analysis

The book provides techniques detect deception using Psychological Narrative Analysis. People typically use two methods to deceive, obfuscation and omission. Liars who obfuscate hide the truth in a tangle of half-truths, assumptions, and suppositions. People who lie by omission tell the truth up to the point where they want to withhold information, bridge over the withheld information, and resume telling the truth. PNA techniques reveal people who lie by obfuscation or by omission.

Interviewers with sensitive social and professional boundaries can use PNA techniques to interview people without the outward appearance of force or pressure. Criminal investigators can use PNA to uncover the truth during interviews and interrogations. Lawyers can use PNA to isolate where clients, defendants, or witnesses withhold information in statements, depositions, or court testimony. Parents can use PNA to prompt their children to provide information that they would not otherwise readily share. Human resource personnel can use PNA to determine the sincerity and trustworthiness of job applicants. Psychologists can use PNA to reveal subtle personality traits and unconscious behavioral motivations of their clients. In short, anybody who wants to gain insights into the behavioral characteristics of others and to test veracity can benefit from PNA.

See following link for full details.

Psychological Narrative Analysis: A Professional Method to Detect Deception in Written and Oral Communications

What verbal cues are reliable for detecting deceit?

I developed the “The Poor Man’s Polygraph” based on the PNA techniques presented in my book. The Poor Man’s Polygraph consists of several techniques (see below) that provide strong indicators of deception. The other techniques are also posted on my Psychology Today Blog.

Why Should I believe you?

To test the veracity of others, you should ask them the simple question, “Why should I believe you?” This forces them to articulate the reasons why you should believe them. Truthful people typically reply, “Because I’m telling the truth” or some derivation thereof. Liars experience difficulty saying “Because I am telling the truth” and, instead, offer various other responses. For example ask the direct question, “Did you steal the money?” If the answer is “No,” follow up with the question, “Why should I believe you?” If the response is other than “Because I’m telling you the truth” or any derivation thereof, deception is suspected.


Beginning an answer to a direct yes or no question with the word well indicates that the person responding is going to provide an answer that the person who asked the question is not expecting. For example: A parent asks his or her child, “Did you brush your teeth?” If the child begins his or her response with the word “Well,” it means the child is going to give an answer he or she knows his or her parent is not expecting. The child knows the parent is expecting the answer “Yes,” so beginning his or her answer with the word “Well” the child is about to give an answer other that “Yes,” the answer he or she thought his or her parent was expecting. If the child’s answer is “Well,” the parent should immediately say, “Go brush your teeth.”

What services does your Schafer and Associates training provide?

Schafer and Associates provides a wide range of training to include: detecting verbal deception using PNA techniques, detecting deception using nonverbal cues, elicitation, psychopathology of hate, building rapport, and influence. Schafer and Associates also provides consulting services to those who want written documents or transcripts of verbal communications analyzed for deception and/or behavioral assessments.

Who influenced you to pursue a career in Narrative Analysis?

Criminals were most influential people in my pursuit of narrative analysis. I witnessed countless lies told for a variety of reasons in every imaginable circumstance from petty criminals to sophisticated international spies, each with differing levels of ability to lie convincingly. I catalogued how criminals told lies and developed techniques to uncover the truth.

What is lying by obfuscation?

Obfuscation creates verbal confusion to disguise the truth. Truthful people answer direct questions with direct answers. Liars provide evasive answers and ambiguous responses to avoid the truth. People go to the Land of Is because direct answers expose guilt, complicity, or force a commitment to a specific ideology or cause. The Land of Is is the grey area between the truth and deception. Recognizing the techniques people use to go to the Land of Is provides people with a distinct advantage during social and professional interactions.

What have you got planned for the rest of 2012?

During the remainder of 2012 and beyond, I will continue to provide quality training to federal, state, and local law enforcement officers in the art of detecting deception and interviewing/interrogation techniques. In addition to operating my consulting business, I am a professor at Western Illinois University where I teach law enforcement and criminal justice classes. I am currently writing a book on dating skills based on the techniques I learned from my over 25 years as a police officer and behavioral analyst for the FBI.

Learn More

Click Here to visit John R. Schafer's website.

Click Here to follow John R. Schafer on Twitter.

Go Back To The Main Body Language Expert Interviews Page

Go From John R. Schafer Back To The All About Body Language Homepage


Michael Jackson

Interesting Psychology

Body Language

Criminal Profiling

Psychology Student Guide

Behavioral Science