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How SCAN Gives You the Answer

Every profession requires the ability to obtain information from others, and to determine whether the information is accurate.  

What is the best way to do this?  What is the "magic question" that will cause the person to give us the information we need?  Many interviewers concern themselves with choosing their questions:  what questions to ask, the order in which to present them, their content, and their exact phrasing.

But, in fact, the best way to obtain information is not to focus on the questions at all, but on the answers.

Why is this so?

Obtaining information from questions is a little like viewing the world through the periscope of a submarine.  Like a periscope, a question will give us only a limited view.  We will get only what we asked for.  If there is additional information that we don't know about, we can't ask for it, so we won't get it.  Also, just as the use of the periscope exposes the location of the submarine, the use of questions teaches the person what you know, what you don't know, and how to lie.

So, in order to obtain information in a reliable way, we must make sure that the process of obtaining the information will not contaminate the information itself.

SCAN addresses and solves these problems of the questioning process.  This unique approach to information is a powerful investigative tool which produces a large amount of information, in a very reliable way.

SCAN does not deal with questions.  SCAN deals with answers.  SCAN does not deal with the people giving the information, but with the information itself.

SCAN is a very structured and consistent way to dissect a statement into its components, to evaluate each component on its own, and at the same time to evaluate that component within the context of the whole statement.  

This analysis process is independent of the investigation process and of the person giving the information.  SCAN does not require any outside knowledge concerning the person, the case, or the physical evidence.  SCAN uses only the person's own words, as given in the statement.  SCAN gives the reader/listener the full extent of what the person said, what the person did not say, and whether the information is truthful or not.

SCAN and the "Editing Process"

How can SCAN obtain all of this information in such a reliable way?

SCAN is based on the "editing process" that takes place whenever a person conveys information.  In order to report the information, the person must first prepare the statement in his/her mind; the person controls the language, and must decide what to say and how to say it.  This is true whether the statement is prepared over a length of time, or whether it is given on the spur of the moment.  

Thus, before a person can tell about an event which took place in the past, the person needs to go into memory, review the event, and sort everything out - what was the order of the events, what is important to include in the story, and what "unimportant" points should be left out.  Then the person needs to phrase the story in plain language: choosing how to build the sentences, and deciding which words are appropriate for describing the event.  All of these decisions are part of the "editing process" which creates the statement.  

SCAN simulates the thought process which produces the statement.  SCAN is a very logical process, which follows the same steps involved in the creation of the statement.  In doing so, SCAN encompasses the full extent of the information which was present in the person's mind during the delivery of the information, whether the words were spoken or written.  

SCAN:  Comparison from Within the Statement

There are two ways to check the reliability of a statement:  "outside comparison" and "inside comparison".

The most common procedure for "outside comparison" is to compare the statement to the physical evidence known to the investigator at the time.  If the investigator finds any contradiction, even if it is a minor one, the credibility of the statement is reduced.

Another method for "outside comparison" is to compare the person's behavior, as it is described in the statement, to the behavior of the "average person" in such circumstances.  This is referred as "psychological profiling".

But there is another way to check the reliability of a statement - by comparing it to the "inside" -  "from within".  This is SCAN, or Scientific Content Analysis.  SCAN is a way to scientifically (=consistently and in a structured way) analyze content, whether written (a statement, a letter, etc.) or spoken (an interview).

SCAN does not require any outside knowledge concerning the person, the case, or the physical evidence.  SCAN uses only the person's own words, as given in the statement.

SCAN:  Even Liars Will Tell You the Truth

How can one analyze a statement without having any knowledge of the case, or even the person?

The foundation of SCAN is that people do not lie.  If the definition of a "lie" is "saying something which is totally fabricated without any connection to reality", then most of us don't lie.  Most of us would prefer to be truthful.  However, we just don't say everything.  We tell the truth, but not the whole truth.

Let's take a few examples.  In a murder case, a wife was suspected of killing her husband.  She gave a statement in which she said, "I was in the living room.  I heard a shot.  I went to see what happened, and I saw that he was dead."  The detective accused the suspect of being deceptive, and the suspect said, "I didn't lie to you.  Everything I told you is true."

And, in fact, everything she said is true.  She did hear a shot.  If you shoot somebody you will hear a shot.  She went to see the results of her shooting, and she found out that she did kill him.  Everything she said was true, but it wasn't everything that happened.  She simply left out the "small" fact that she was the one who pulled the trigger.

In a double murder case, a teenager was suspected of killing two younger boys - his stepbrother and the stepbrother's friend.  The detective reported that the suspect denied the murders because he repeatedly said, "I didn't kill my brother."  

But although at first this appeared to be a denial of all guilt, SCAN analysis pointed out that the suspect couldn't deny killing both victims; he denied only one.  In fact, the suspect had an accomplice who killed his stepbrother, while he killed the stepbrother's friend.

This principle applies to every case, whether it is murder, arson, child abuse, theft of money, etc.  Let's take a suspicion of theft.  The suspect said, "I counted the money, put the bag on the counter, and proceeded to go home."

The money is missing from the bag, yet everything the subject said was true.  He counted the money (when you steal you want to know how much you are stealing), and then the subject put the bag on the counter.  The subject didn't say that he put the money back in the bag after counting it, because he didn't; he left the empty bag on the counter and walked away with the money.

SCAN:  Detecting a True or False Denial

There is only one sentence which constitutes a complete denial of guilt:  "I didn't do it."  These four short words should not be that difficult to say.  But for a guilty person, this is also the only sentence that constitutes an outright lie.  If a person committed a crime and later says "I didn't do it", then his language contradicted reality.  The person would not be able to say that he didn't lie.

Therefore, a guilty person will appear to "deny" his guilt by telling only part of the truth.  He might say, for example,  "I didn't take the $100" (when in fact he took $50, or $150).  But he will not be able to say "I didn't do it" if he did it.

SCAN does not look for deception.  SCAN looks for the whole truth.  The SCAN analyst will ask himself/herself: "Is it possible that the statement in front of me is true, but the subject still committed the crime?"

If the subject could have done it, then maybe he did; but if he couldn't have done it, then maybe he didn't.

By starting from the assumption that everyone wants to tell the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth, SCAN gets more information than methods that ignore part of the information present in every statement because they assume deception.

SCAN in a Conversation or Interview

An ordinary conversation does not always seem to give us the information we are looking for.  And if people intentionally give us inaccurate information - i.e., if they are deceptive - an ordinary conversation gives us no way to determine this.

SCAN - Scientific Content Analysis - is a way to obtain information and detect deception, directly from the words that people use.  When applied in an ordinary conversation or interview, SCAN will enable us to obtain the information we need.  

When people ask how and why SCAN works, the answer is very simple: SCAN works because people want to tell you everything.

Everything?  How can that be?  If that were true, then communication between people would be very simple, and we all know that it is not.  So, let's explain the meaning of "people want to tell you everything."

Our tendency, due to our education, training, and experience, is to look for the meaning behind the words.  Although this gives some depth to the words said, it brings the listener to look for implications and to draw conclusions, but to disregard the actual words.
SCAN, or Scientific Content Analysis, takes into consideration only the words used by the person.  What the subject does while talking (including body language), what the subject implies, what the listener/reader knows, do not play a role in the analysis.  We can even say that the punctuation or the person's tone of voice do not play a part in the analysis.  The words take on a life of their own.

Examples of SCAN in "Small Talk"

Let's examine a few everyday examples which demonstrate this.  

In the following conversation, Jim has just introduced his co-worker, Tom, to an interviewer who is familiar with the SCAN technique.  

Interviewer:    "I understand you are working with Jim."
Tom:        "Not for long."  
Interviewer:    "You mean you are going to quit?"
Tom:        "I was just kidding."

But later on, Jim confirmed that Tom had told him about his intention to quit his job.

Another example is an "incomplete social introduction".  This is a case where a person refers to someone just by first name, without indicating his/her relationship to that person; it is often an indicator of a bad relationship between the two.    

In a conversation about this point, a woman asked, "Why do you say that this indicates a bad relationship?"  In her description of a Saturday at home, she had repeatedly referred to "Bob".  "I can't  call him my 'husband' because we are not married, and I can't call him my 'boyfriend' because it sounds childish.  We are living together.  And since I don't know what title to use for him, I prefer to use just his first name."  

However, a further discussion revealed that she and Bob had already decided to separate and sell their house, and they already had a date for the actual separation.

And this conversation points out another SCAN principle.  She didn't really say that it was not a bad relationship.  She only asked, "Why do you say it is a bad relationship?"  If we pay attention to her actual words, and not to the implication behind them, the truth is clear.  

SCAN:  Detecting Confessions from the Content, not the Context

Many of us have encountered situations in which people around us have told us deep secrets or embarrassing information, but in a very light manner.  We took the words as a joke because of their context, disregarding the content itself.

There are many examples of people who confessed to their friends that they had committed a crime.  Their friends took it as a joke.  A well-known case is that of "The Hillside Stranglers".  One of the two cousins who terrorized the Los Angeles area was talking with a group of friends who speculated about the murders.  "I don't know why they're looking for the murderer.  I'm the murderer," he said in a joking tone of voice.  His friends thought he was just teasing them.

People prefer to be truthful and not to lie.  And if the truth might be dangerous, they can camouflage it with a smile, a light manner, or a facial expression, which sends a message that the words are not what they seem to be. But in fact, the words that the person said are still what they are.

"And what about politicians?" one can ask, "Politicians lie all the time!"  Not necessarily.  They are truthful.  They just don't tell us everything.  

One example is the French President, Francois Mitterand.  There was an inquiry in France as to who gave the order to bomb and sink the Rainbow warrior ship in New Zealand in 1985.  Mitterand said, "I didn't give that stupid order."  If "that" was not the order which he gave, then which order did he give?

SCAN analysis takes into consideration only what the person said, not more and not less.

From these examples we can see that the listener is not allowed to make any assumptions or draw any conclusions from what the person implied.  We must pay attention to what the person said and didn't say, but not what the person implied.  

This, then, is the essence of SCAN:  we should look at every statement as if it is truthful.  People don't lie.  They want to tell us everything, but they don't always say everything.  And what they don't say can reveal the whole truth - the truth that the person wanted to conceal.