Textual Analysis: An Approach for Assessing the Truth Value of Allegations of Sexual Abuse

by Max Scharnberg*

ABSTRACT: Textual analysis may be used for assessing the truth of sexual abuse allegations.  In textual analysis, close attention is paid to the physical possibility of the alleged act and to the combined pattern of all asserted temporal relations.  Other methods include searching for parallel order relations, the pruning technique, and the morphological approach.  Untrue accounts may derive from external pressure, psychopathology, or ordinary fabulation.  The dynamics of the producer of the untruth, the untruth itself and the receiver of the untruth must all be considered in understanding a false allegation.  Judges and juries may not be very proficient in distinguishing between true and false allegations.  Problems of invalid indicators in the Swedish system are described with the hope that this analysis may increase understanding as to the specific errors that are found in these cases.

The present paper is based upon three samples.  In 22 cases of sexual abuse of children, I have been an expert witness either appointed by the court, engaged by the counsel for the defense, or engaged as private expert by the defendant.  As a researcher I have closely scrutinized more than 18 additional cases.  I am to a greater or lesser extent familiar with some three dozen further trials.

It has often been suggested that cases of sexual abuse are extremely difficult to sort out since only two people know what really happened.  Anyone else, however, can arrive at a decision solely by forming a subjective belief as to what party has told the truth.  If courts were not entitled to send an individual to prison on the ground of a subjective belief, children could never be protected.

But, without denying that difficult cases exist, I have so far encountered none.  In most cases, the true state of things could be determined if only attention were paid to the informative facts of the case, and if reasonable procedures were used for extracting what information they may contain.  Although such procedures may be complex or simple, they will generally be highly time-consuming.

Unfortunately, many attorneys, judges, investigators, social workers, psychologists, and others not trained in appropriate systematic procedures tend to direct their attention toward the least informative facts.  They may also reach conclusions by means of doubtful procedures.  Moreover, courts may decide the fate of people after having listened to the evidence for as brief a time as two days.  Even if a trial has gone on for many months, most of the time may have been devoted to shallow and uninformative matters.

Nonetheless, there exists an impressive number of cases in which subjective decisions may be replaced by objective procedures.  These procedures constitute the main theme of my paper.  All examples are borrowed from Scandinavian cases and are extensively described in Scharnberg (1996a, 1996b), but defendants and alleged victims are given pseudonyms.

First Preliminary Topic: Certain Basic Features of the Swedish Legal System

In most European countries it is the obligation of all courts to apply the law as it is passed by the parliament.  No court is permitted to reject any law on the ground that the latter is not in accordance with "right reason" or any other abstract entity.  At least in theory, any innovative decision by a court can only be intended as a means of clarifying a law.

While Denmark and Norway have partial jury systems, there is no jury in Sweden.  The same members of the court will decide upon the guilt and mete out the sentence.  Each member has an equal and individual vote and protracted negotiation to reach unanimity is non-existent.  On the other hand, a life sentence may well be based upon the votes three against two.

No judge is elected.  A judge with legal training is appointed for life, while lay judges are appointed for four years.  Lay judges are proposed by the (five to eight) political parties, in accordance with their proportion of the votes at general elections.  This procedure is intended to guarantee representation.  In the district court, any trial will be handled by one or two legal judges together with three to six lay judges.  In the Court of Appeal the distribution is three and two, respectively, while there are no lay judges in the Supreme Court.

A judgment must be appealed within a few weeks, or else the right to appeal is lost.  The judgment of a district court can always be appealed, but the Supreme Court may — and usually will — reject the appeal of a judgment of the Court of Appeal.  After proceedings in one to three courts, the judgment is final.  No counterpart can be found to the American pattern, where a case may run endlessly through different courts.

If a judgment is final, the Supreme Court may under unusual circumstances reopen the case.  During the last five years, a total of three cases of sexual abuse of children have been reopened.

The verdict on the guilt may be appealed as well as the severity of the sentence.  Any court will not only have to produce a verdict, but must also formulate a justification of the latter.  This difference from the American system may be less than one might wish, since the justification may consist of trivial standard phrases.

On the other hand, the justification argument can be factually or logically erroneous.  Courtroom proceedings tend to make people drowsy and judges or jurors may not notice crucial statements and may have grossly false recollections of what was said.  Since Swedish judgments are more explicitly formulated, the false recollections are not masked.  Moreover, judges and jurors are not proficient in comparing statements made at different times, whether the intervening interval is five minutes or five months.  Logical deductions stated in the written judgment may be excessively strange.  All such errors may be pointed out in a higher court.

In Sweden, neither an expert witness nor a specific part of his or her testimony can be excluded on the ground that there is a jury which must not be exposed to undue influence.  Europeans are often astonished by what is in the U.S. deemed to be undue influence, and even more so by what is not considered undue influence.  In Sweden, psychologists and psychiatrists functioning as expert witnesses are free to advance specific conclusions regarding the guilt of the defendant, and they usually do so.

Nonetheless, much hypocrisy is involved here.  Many judges want the expert witness only to pay lip service to the judges' prerogative of deciding the guilt.  They may react favorably to a testimony like the following (which is a digest from the case of Violet): "On the basis of 30 years of clinical experience, I am sure that this girl is telling the truth when she claims that her father abused her.  However, thereby, I have taken no stand as to whether her father is guilty of having abused her."

Witness psychology has flourished in Sweden for generations.  Until recently, the American legal system prohibited the practical application of the results of this discipline, and raised obstacles against gathering relevant facts.  As a result, the development of witness psychology was prevented.  However, a related approach has recently emerged under the name statement validity assessment.

Second Preliminary Topic: Witness Psychology and the History of Psychology

In the present context, there is little need to define the patterns of overlapping and non-overlapping areas of "witness psychology," "statement validity assessment" or "textual analysis."  Usually, such patterns are not even stable over decades.  Although textual analysis as such is very old, is was not introduced into psychology before Wolpe and Rachman (1960).  The oldest approach which is still viable is German "statement psychology" (Stern, 1903; Undeutsch, 1957).

Few disciplines have names which exactly fit their domain.  "Witness psychology" was, from the start, concerned with statements by both witnesses, defendants, and alleged victims (cf. Trankell, 1971). Three of the most superior works in the field are Trankell's (1974) investigation of a mythomaniac presenting himself and others as Russian spies (160 pp.) and Holgerson and Hellbom's (1991) investigation of the Swedish "cutting-up trial" (121 pp.), in which two medical doctors were, on the basis of psychoanalytic interpretations, found guilty of having performed sexual necrophilia upon the corpse of a prostitute; they were supposed to have eaten the eyes of the corpse.  The two-year-old daughter of one of the doctors had allegedly been present.  The third work is Hellblom Sjögren's (1994) analysis of the case of Delphine, in which Elizabeth Loftus was also engaged (150 pp.).  A textual analysis of "the cutting-up trial" will be published in English by Scharnberg (1996b).

While witness psychology was always a field related to legal cases, textual analysis is a methodological approach which originally developed within the science of history, and which still has no specific field of application.  All scientific results may need to be modified in the light of knowledge acquired later.  By and large, this need has been less prominent for textual analysis than for experimentation.  Hence, it would be difficult to defend the view that textual analysis is less valid than experimentation.

I entered the field of legal trials after longstanding research in the history of psychology.  My background is important because quite a few observations in the psychological literature are faked.  Forged data may be exposed if private files become accessible.  But not only in this way.  Many forgeries can be exposed by a textual analysis of the published text.  Since a writer may not recall his own fabrications from one page to the next, juxtaposing all his statements concerning the same thing may conspicuously reveal the fictitious nature of these statements.  Occasionally, the textual analyst may even identify a unique state of things, which is the only one that could have given rise to the particular false versions actually asserted.

A particularly lucid work in this field is Esterson's (1993) exploration of the work of Sigmund Freud.  Esterson applies the entire armory of textual analysis to establish that a life's work of clinical observations are deliberately faked.  He points out the persuasive techniques which have made thousands of readers blind to the most conspicuous content of the writings and describes the concrete devices aimed at producing the firm conviction that Freud is absolutely truthful.  But Esterson's book is also relevant in the present context because of a quite different reason.

I (Scharnberg, 1993a) have coined the expression "the incest ideology" about the tendency to see sexual abuse where there is none.  Although many contemporary psychoanalysts repudiate this ideology, psychoanalytic theory is a cornerstone of the latter.  Many persons have been sent to prison on no evidence except psychoanalytic interpretations.

Psychologists and lay persons have debated whether Freud (a, b, c, d, e, f) made an early mistake in 1896 by believing his patients' fantasies about sexual abuse, or whether he made a later mistake by rejecting his patients' authentic accounts of such experiences.  This debate continued for almost a decade.  But it is explicitly stated in Freud's own papers that he himself invented the seduction interpretations, which he under great resistance forced upon his patients.  On other pages he transformed his interpretations into observations, put them into the mouths of his patients, and feigned to have been highly surprised by "their" accounts.

In other words, contemporary psychologists' methods for disclosing sexual assaults are based upon a historical case of forged clinical observations.  Independently of each other, Esterson (1993), Israëls and Schatzman (1993), Macmillan (1991), and Scharnberg (1993a, 1993b) arrived at identical conclusions.

Some people have objected to the textual analysis method, claiming that we must first discover in the psychological laboratory (or in the clinical consultation room) what features are valid indicators of lying.  The argument is that only by applying laboratory or clinical results can we ever hope to expose deliberate untruths in a published text.  But the history of any science defies all armchair philosophy as to the order in which problems must be solved.  Experimental psychologists in the field of lying have much more to learn from historians than vice versa, since it is difficult to design a non-trivial psychological experiment until one has rather exact ideas as to what to look for.

The Physical Possibility of Performing the Alleged Act

One of the very first questions I ask when confronted with a case of sexual abuse is, "Is the alleged act physically possible at all?"  This question is far from trivial.  People have been sent to prison because of acts which no human being is capable of performing.

In the case of Möldrup (a Danish municipality of some 7000 souls), the psychologist Sine Diemar taught a number of young children and two mentally retarded teenagers to claim that they had been sexually abused by a total of 35 adults.  A sexual orgy was said to have taken place in a certain house where everyone had been naked and all the sexual acts videotaped.  But the prosecutor realized that a trial with 35 defendants would almost certainly lead to 35 acquittals, so consequently, he made 29 of them disappear in silence.

After the conviction of the remaining six, the reporters Poul Bögh and Niels Tobiesen asked themselves, "What kinds of video cameras existed in 1988?  How much electricity would they need?  How much electricity could the installation in this house yield, before the fuses would break?"  Thus, a very simple experiment revealed the impossibility of videotaping in the house as claimed.

Within the Danish legal system there is a specific "New Trial Motion Court," which is the only court handling such petitions.  This court set the convicts free in August, 1993 and decided in May, 1994 that the entire trial should be resumed by the Court of Appeal since the children might be suffering from "False Memory Syndrome."  One of the convicts, now deceased, was posthumously acquitted by the New Trial Motion Court.  Danish law requires an entirely new jury for the new trial and on April 6, 1995 the new jury convicted all of the remaining defendants.  But one hour later, the three legal judges of the same trial decided that the jury had reached the wrong verdict and acquitted all. Tange (1995) provides an excellent analysis of this entire case.

Another example of a physically impossible allegation is in a Swedish case.  The 14-year-old girl, Embla, claimed that her father had slept with her 40 to 50 times.  All acts but one had been performed in the missionary position.  But, because of a traffic accident, the father's elbow was broken and infected and for more than a year was in a plaster cast. His doctor testified that it was therefore impossible for him to have performed intercourse in the missionary position.

Moreover, the gynecological examination revealed that Embla was a virgin.  But The Court of Appeal in Jönköping applied logical acrobatics to justify the conviction.  They concluded that the unbroken hymen is compatible with the father having rubbed his penis against the exterior parts of the daughter's sex organ (but would the missionary position be very appropriate for such an activity?) and Embla might have thought that this is coitus.

What I have called the "football case" was handled by The Court of Appeal of Stockholm.  Thirteen-year-old Wendela claimed that her father had performed fellatio upon her while she was sleeping.  She is absolutely clear about having been totally asleep on at least two of the occasions.  She did not wake up until the father closed the door from the outside.  The reason she understood what had happened, was not that she had semen in her mouth.  During the first police investigations she explicitly expressed her doubt as to whether it was her own thumb or her father's penis she had felt.

Is it possible to perform fellatio upon a sleeping 13-year-old without awakening her?  How could the girl afterwards know what had happened?  Furthermore, it was claimed that during the act, the father was standing on the floor with his knees against the edge of the bed.  The bed, which is placed against the wall, has a breadth of 122 cm.  I shall generously suppose that the father at least twice happened to find Wendela sleeping with her face near the appropriate edge.  When testifying as an expert witness, I recommended that the male members of the Court place a football near the edge of a bed, as a symbol of the girl's head, and see if they could reach the football.  The height of the bed was 47 cm.  My own height is 169 cm, and I can do this only with a significantly higher bed.  Wendela's father height is 182 cm.

Girls who advance false allegations — whether on their own initiative or because they are unable to resist external pressure — may pay very little attention to physical possibility.  But why should they?  More often than not, judges and jurors ignore the surrealistic nature of the alleged act.

I am not competent to evaluate the following.  But, together with dentists and child physicians, the Swedish attorney Lennart Hane is presently conducting a study as to whether it is physically possible to accomplish oral sex with two- and four-year-old children.

Combining Temporal Relations

Judges and jurors have a limited proficiency in combining any kinds of facts, whether or not they are concerned with times.  Almost all people without special training may find it exceedingly hard to combine more than two temporal relations.  The following examples unambiguously reveal the necessity of paying close attention to assertions about times.

Eighteen-year-old Erna accused the husband of the day care provider who had taken care of her when she was 10 to 13 years old.  Allegedly, he had slept with her, perhaps as much as 300 times, with 80 to 90% of the acts occurring in his bedroom on weekday afternoons between 1 and 3 o'clock.  The husband was convicted by the district court.  According to the verdict, it had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that both persons had had the opportunity of being alone in the sleeping room at the times claimed by Erna.  The girl had given the impression of being trustworthy, and her account bore the stamp of self-experienced events.  The fact that she had given her testimony under great pain constituted a further reason for considering the account true.

Now, all dates and hours when Erna was present in the day care family were documented at the municipal administration.  Each date of the husband's absence from his job was likewise documented by the social security system and/or by his working place.  When all facts were put together, it turned out that in the entire period of 33 months there were only 4 weekdays where the two persons could have been together during any part of the interval from 12 o'clock to 16:30 (4:30).

Fifteen-year-old Betsy stated, after prolonged pressure from the school nurse, the school welfare officer, and a social welfare worker, that her father had raped her six to eight times.  On the last occasion she was raped in the evening.  The immediately following day she went to school.  Coming home from school on this day, she was so depressed because of the assault that she tried to take her life.  There is no room for the hypothesis that Betsy might have mixed up the dates of these two events, since this information was supplied only some seven weeks after the alleged assault, and since the rape and the suicidal attempt are embedded in a coherent and meaningful pattern.

However, the intimate relation between these two events enables the almost exact dating of the rape.  On September 9, 1988 Betsy visited the social welfare agency together with the school nurse.  This was the very first occasion at which she learned about the suspicion of sexual abuse.  On this date Betsy had neither a scar nor a bandage around her wrist.  On September 12 the school nurse shifted the bandage for the first time.

The typical reasoning of judges around such a configuration of circumstances, can be extracted from numerous Swedish judgments.  It would be something like the following. "Betsy has connected the assault to an event, viz. the suicidal attempt, which is objectively verified and objectively dated.  This connection constitutes a ground for concluding that she has told the truth about the rape."

As a textual analyst, I first note that September 9 was a Friday.  Consequently, the postulated facts are compatible with two and only two patterns.  Either Betsy was raped on Friday night, went to school on Saturday, and tried to take her life after coming home from school on Saturday afternoon.  Or else, Betsy was raped on Saturday night, went to school on Sunday, and tried to take her life after coming home from school on Sunday afternoon.

But Betsy had on September 8, 1988 moved to a foster family.  This happened with her father's consent because of an unrelated and neutral reason.  The foster family has mapped out everything Betsy did on Friday and Saturday.  There is simply no room for her having met her father.  It is no far-fetched guess that Betsy's suicide attempt was in response to the social welfare agency's efforts to force her to falsely accuse her father.

Betsy eventually produced a series of letters which she claimed to have written after each assault.  She has always maintained the assaults started after her mother left the family (on February 28, 1986).  But the first letter is dated "6-4-84."  Even orally she has repeatedly stated 1984 to be the year of the first rape (we shall see that she was mentally ill, though I shall not describe the reason why she was fixated at the year 1984).  We therefore have three indications of the time of the first assault: in 1984; during the first weekend after the mother had moved away; and some four months after the mother's departure.  Strangely, a letter describing the third assault is dated "May 1986."

In the beginning, Betsy claimed that what she handed over to the police were the original letters.  When it was pointed out that the handwriting of the letters did not agree with the handwriting in her school books from 1984 and 1986, she switched to the claim that the letters were copies she had produced at a later time, while she had lost the original specimens.

In the 6-4-84 letter it is stated, explicitly and twice, that this is the very first rape.  When it was pointed out that the description was conspicuously discrepant from her account of the first assault during the police interrogations, she switched to the idea that the letter was about the second rape.  But this only shifted the location of the discrepancy without reducing it.  The third version was that the letter was concerned with some indeterminate rape between the third and the last one.  The fourth version was that the letter was a "potpourri," in which different details were taken from different assaults.

The Supreme Court (case nr Ö-1949/90 and Ö-724/91, judges: Beckman, Freyschuss, Gregow, Heuman, Jermsten, Lambe, Munck, Sterzel, Törnell, Vängby) has twice stated that exactly this pattern of circumstances should lead to a conviction.

Although temporal relations likewise play an important role in the case of Ingalisa, their evidential value is of a more psychological nature.  In June, 1989 her mother and stepfather believed that Ingalisa went to see her biological father.  Instead, she went to a female friend, whom her parents (with no little justification) thought to be a bad influence.  When they found out, they told her to come home immediately. Ingalisa's response was to report her stepfather to the social welfare agency for sexual assaults.  She stated her conviction that the abuse would continue, if she returned.  But when she reported the crime to the police almost at the same time, she claimed that the abuse had ceased on March 1st.

During a subsequent police interrogation, Ingalisa did not recall this date, and suggested that the latter must be false.  But later, during the same interrogation, she recalled that a quite different event occurred on March 1st.  Her stepfather had shouted, "You stupide!" to one of her schoolmates.  The girls had discussed whether to report him to the police because of defamation.  However, Ingalisa alone had eventually reported him for sexual crimes.

In other words, a date related to a quite different act which Ingalisa would have liked to report had been transferred to the incest allegation.  Should we expect a genuine incest victim with access to authentic recollections, to incorporate into a police report a false date borrowed from an altogether different source of her animosity?

Parallel Order Relations

Such relations may appear at the most unexpected places, and may be used in many ways.  They may be excessively revealing. Only one example will be given.

Seventeen-year-old Violet's stepfather had left his wife for a younger woman.  The wife decided to revenge herself and pressured Violet to report her stepfather for having abused her since she was 12 years old.  It is not difficult to guess from where the mother got the idea.  A few years earlier, one of Violet's schoolmates had murdered both her parents.  For purposes of propaganda, a detective inspector falsely claimed that the murderess was an incest victim who was taking revenge on the offender and on the other parent who had knowingly tolerated the abuse.  This fabrication, which was highly publicized, was crucial in changing attitudes in Sweden.  At Violet's school an enormous campaign was conducted on sexual abuse, and the school welfare officer had a private talk with each student.

Violet obediently went to the police but did not perform the task very well.  She could supply no details about any aspect of the alleged abuse.  I shall quote a section from the police interrogation:

[Interrogator:] But dear little Violet, isn't there any event you could connect things with so as to arrive at any specific occasion?  What I am thinking of is, if it was your birthday, if something special had happened in the family, or if a friend of yours had made a call, or something of the kind.  If you could search your memory for any such things to connect with some of the assaults, in time and also in execution.

Violet shakes her head and says that she cannot do this.

To compensate for Violet's poor fantasy, her mother wrote a "short story" of what she had experienced.  Although Violet learned the short story by heart, she and the mother made a mistake which exposed the intrigue.  A genuine incest victim might well prepare herself before the trial. S he might produce a written list of entries such as "the city park" or "the attic in granny's house" so as not to forget significant events.  But — and this is crucial — at different rehearsal sessions she would clothe the events in different words.  By contrast, Violet learned by heart the sheer verbal formulations — in exactly the same way in which an actor would learn his lines before a stage performance.

The girl's testimony started with a monologue of 2481 words in the district court and about the same in the Court of Appeal.  The monologues were not literally identical, but almost all sentences followed each other in the same order.  All non-trivial discrepancies were closely associated with pauses, which had the characteristics of an actor on the stage having forgot the next line.

As if this was not enough, certain formulations were borrowed from a pseudo-documentary TV program (Studio S: An Unparalleled Ignomony).  A brief section will be quoted.  George is the stepfather, the other names are Violet's siblings.  Note that the objection that a person with a phenomenal memory might do without any rehearsal what Violet did is not relevant, since Violet has in many ways — such as in the above quoted excerpt — proved her poor memory (see Table 1).

The Pruning Technique

This analytic procedure was first described by Skinner (1983). When applied to dialogues — e.g. a police interrogation — the basic operation is to delete every contribution by one of the parties, and juxtapose all the statements by the other.  The textual analyst may also distribute the dialogue in two columns so that the reader may alternate between perceiving only the questions, only the answers, or both.  Although all information contained in a pruned dialogue will also be present in the complete dialogue, the information may be much more perceptible in the former.  Not infrequently, a judge or a psychologist may have overlooked the real pattern, for example, that the child who supposedly supplied a detailed account of sexual abuse actually did little more than say yes or no in response to leading questions.

Rachel was 20 years old at the time of the interrogation in the district court.  Her testimony comprises 330 statements, 288 of which do not contain any inaudible fragments.  No less than 163 of the latter are devoid of any information supplied by the girl herself.  She merely gives her assent to what is presented to her, primarily by the prosecutor, or else says, "I don't know."  From Loftus and Doyle (1987) I understand that this pattern is not considered inappropriate in the U.S.  This seems very strange to me.  I would strongly criticize a Swedish lawyer who failed to emphasize that an interrogated person who did not produce whole sentences had provided no useful information at all.

The Morphological Method

This approach consists of two steps, and it is tempting to overlook the second and most important one.  First, an exhaustive list of the possible alternatives must be constructed (Zwicky, 1971).  Second, each alternative must be exhaustively outlined.  It may then turn out that every alternative compatible with the allegations is impossible or unbelievable.

Ingalisa claimed that her stepfather had licked her sex organ three times.  According to one version, he had agreed that she would be permitted to come home at a later time in exchange for her submitting to the assault.  According to another version, she had no idea as to what he was going to do when he started to pull down her pants.  She was equally as ignorant on the second and third occasions because meanwhile she had forgotten the first two assaults.

A set of variables are involved in this account — pulling down and licking (these may be collapsed into one), being ignorant, and having made an agreement.  If we include only those patterns which assume that the licking really took place, and allow for different orders of the latter two variables, the exhaustive set will comprise five alternatives:

  1. Ingalisa's stepfather had licked her, they had agreed on the exchanges, and she was ignorant as to why he pulled down her pants.  But after having arrived at the agreement, Ingalisa had suffered a black-out, whence she did not figure out what was to happen, when her pants were removed.
  2. This alternative differs from the proceeding one only as regards the order of the variables. Ingalisa was truly ignorant of the aim when her pants were pulled down. But afterwards she stopped the stepfather, requesting a counter-contribution. Then they arrived at the agreement.
  3. She told the truth about the licking and the agreement. But she lied about her ignorance.
  4. She told the truth about the licking and her ignorance. But she lied about the agreement.
  5. She lied about both the agreement and her ignorance. Nevertheless, she told the truth about the licking.

Nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the case of Ingalisa that the difference may be negligible between the non-justified verdict by an American jury and the justified decision on the guilt by Swedish judges.  Apart from trivial formalities, the entire judgment by the Court of Appeal (Hillerudh, Holmbergh, Widebäck, Yllman, Häggquist) consists of 46 words.

To this date, the stepfather does not know what he is supposed to have done.  The above list reveals the judges' poor capacity for combining statements and making explicit their relation to each other.  By paying no attention to any concrete alternative, and by refusing to choose between the available ones, the Court of Appeal may retain the illusion that the accusation is not strange and improbable.

The Dynamics of Sexual Allegations

Textual analysis comprises many more specific procedures than the ones listed so far (Scharnberg, 1996a, 1996b). Nevertheless, we shall now turn to themes of a different nature.

It is not known to what extent my three samples are representative.  For instance, they contain only one boy, apart from male siblings who were under investigation solely because their sisters were so.  On the other hand, my cases are scrutinized by scientific methods, and I have devoted 350 to 700 hours to each case belonging to the former two samples.  Consequently, there is little room for mistaken conclusions.  In this respect my research contrasts markedly with statistics based upon legal verdicts or subjective assessments by dogmatic clinicians (such as the Swedish writings by Martens [1989] and Lindblad (1989]).

Some patterns are recurrent and some are sporadic.  To this date I have encountered no child nor teenager who has on his or her own initiative invented and truly believed in a false allegation.  A few young children had indeed been abused, but all others had been pressured to say what some adult(s) wanted to hear.  Among teenagers, a non-neglectible number could not resist the pressure of a revengeful mother or a dogmatic professional.  Rachel — and also Betsy — provide typical illustrations.

Both Violet and her mother were religious fanatics who agreed that the stepfather should be in jail for having broken up the family.  Ingalisa was permeated with a craving for revenge against her stepfather.  Hildegard was a narcotic addict who needed the damages for drugs.  Betsy was depressive and would still at the age of 15 burst into crying if a schoolteacher made a kind remark on a neutral topic.

To Erna, the final outcome was a profound tragedy.  Erna, as described earlier, at age 18 accused the husband of her childhood day care provider of regularly sexually abusing her when she was between 10 and 13 years old.  I shall outline the entire development of this case.  The defense had dug out such overwhelmingly strong evidence that the Court of Appeal dared not convict the defendant.  As a result, the court was furious, and the chairman (Sven Larsson) incessantly fired the most coarse insolences toward the counsel for the defense; a truly unique pattern in Sweden.

Recall that the district court concluded Erna appeared trustworthy.  However, it turned out that the girl was semi-psychotic at the time of the trial.  As she perceived the matter herself, she would repeatedly and not always knowingly cross the border between the material world and a spiritual world populated with creatures whose commands she had to obey.

She frequently made false accusations concerning both sexual and non-sexual matters.  At two hospitals, the staff was strictly ordered never to enter her room without a witness.  One of the doctors who had issued this order concealed his own orders and testified in court that Erna was highly trustworthy, both in general and as regards the sexual allegation under trial.  Half a dozen doctors, psychologists, and social workers, who had themselves described Erna's mental condition and behavioral habits on paper, took far-reaching measures to conceal their case notes and their content.

To Erna, a false allegation about sexual abuse had no further meaning than, to a normal person, a sudden outburst like, "You son of a bitch!"  She was genuinely surprised when the doctors made a police report about one and only one of those she had accused.  Apart from frankly admitting that she had lied, she did everything possible to call the whole thing off.  It is disheartening to see the videotaped police interrogation.  Erna is standing for a whole hour with her back toward the camera, kicking violently and rhythmically at the furniture.  But she was finally worn down.  The serious deterioration of her psychic condition coincides with her capitulation.

Erna was not even left alone after the trial.  Save the Children started a newspaper campaign in three towns and arranged local courses for lay judges.  In the latter — about which the press and local TV reported — her case was discussed, and the acquitting judges were attacked for being irresponsible.  One of the teachers at the courses was one of the doctors who had committed perjury.

The end result of the endeavors by the authorities was that Erna took her life at the age of 19.

Quite a few "ordinary" teenagers had given no thought to the possibility that anyone might be harmed when they tried to impress one or more schoolmates by "exposing their secret sexual life."  Embla and Graziella, both 14 years old, are typical examples.  More will be said later about their dynamics.  But when both of them retracted the false accusation, they were immediately isolated from their normal environment and exposed to strong influence by a series of professionals.

Graziella had a 19-year-old boyfriend, with whom she was strongly infatuated.  The social welfare threatened to have him prosecuted for having slept with a minor unless Graziella agreed that her father had raped her.  When the conviction of the father was final, the case against the boyfriend was removed from the cause list.

The Deficient Reality Feeling of the Fabulator

Most of the content of the present section is taken from Scharnberg (1994, 1996a).  Few features of false accounts are more recurrent than the deficient reality feeling of the fabulator.  More often than not, fabulators are incapable of thinking or imagining what additional features would be present if the fabricated ones had been authentic.  This principle is amply born out by the above examples on physical or temporal possibility.

It is at the same time very difficult and very easy to construct a fabulated account which has the appearance of corresponding to an authentic state of things.  It is difficult, because human beings are highly unfamiliar with the fine-grained features of reality.  They are also prone to overlook many crucial features which are not fine-grained at all.

It is not a paradox that it is likewise very easy to produce an apparently authentic fabulation.  This is so because the producer of the lie is not the only one who is unfamiliar with the nature of reality.  The receiver of the lie may be no more familiar and, hence, may overlook exactly the same oddities which the producer was unable to avoid.

The task of detecting lies by analytic techniques bears a strange similarity to night vision.  Non-trained individuals feel an irresistible impulse to direct the attention toward areas where nothing can be found and away from the locations where the crucial information is discernible.  In this respect, psychologists, jurors, and judges do not differ from other untrained lay persons.  They may almost completely neglect the logical structure of an account.  But they will be strongly influenced by expressive features.  If a sad recount is associated with a sad tone of voice, sad facial expressions, and the use of sad words, they will usually conclude that the account is true.

Objectively, the logical structure of authentic occurrences is very difficult to imitate.  Therefore, whether or not an account has a logical structure is a strong indicator of its truth value.  By contrast, expressive features which are generally observed when a true account is delivered are very easy for many people to imitate, albeit not for everyone.  Hence, "true expressive features" are associated not only with true accounts, but also with a large and rather well-defined class of false accounts.  Judges and jurors should keep in mind that those false accounts with which they are primarily confronted do not constitute a random selection, but belong often to the class of "apparently true" false accounts.

A recurrent feature of fabulators is their tendency to make every lie stand by itself, with little regard to its relationship to other true or false statements they have made or to firmly established external facts.  Exactly because they are prone to focus upon one thing at a time, they may appear to be thoroughly trustworthy.

Lying is a technique of persuasion.  Except for individuals of subnormal intelligence, few people would use this technique habitually for years or decades, unless they had the repeated experience that their lies were believed.  Hence, it is almost trivially true that habitual liars give a highly trustworthy impression.

We should not look upon the habitual fabulator as a person who has invented certain techniques which are eminently suited for deceiving others.  Rather, the virtuoso liar should be conceived of as an individual who has passively adapted himself to the general weaknesses of ordinary human beings.  There is little reason for the fabulator to take great pains to avoid contradictions, since the listener may not detect even the most glaring ones.  By contrast, no effort must be spared to identify and produce the appropriate tone of voice, expressive formulations, and so on.  In fact, habitual fabulators may often give a much more trustworthy impression than people honestly telling the truth.

The Two Sources of Lies

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the following fact.  All or nearly all lies derive from two and only two sources: a preexisting set of standard attributions and modifications of authentic states of things.

The standard attributions may as a matter of routine be pasted upon almost any individual, situation or event.  They need not be pejorative, but they are frequently so.  Whoever intends to disqualify another person may "reluctantly" reveal that the latter is mentally ill, a drug addict, and so on.  The standard attributions may be stable over centuries, or have a shorter life-span.  Not long ago homosexuality left the class, while sexual abuse of children has become a recent addition.

As for the second class, even an extremely mendacious account may consist of many parts, the overwhelming majority of which are perfectly true.  Both classes may combine.  The late prime minister Olof Palme regularly visited his senile mother at a mental hospital.  Evil-minded gossip transformed these visits: he was said to be receiving regular treatment because he was a narcotic addict.

The second class is the crucial one.  As can be seen from most Swedish judgments, judges reason as if every false account consisted of nothing but false parts, and as if any liar invented each and all details out of thin air.

An authentic example: A girl claimed that her father had slept with her shortly before Christmas, and that this happened a few days after she had passed an examination in trigonometry.  It was objectively verified that the girl really passed an examination in trigonometry on the 16th of December.  The judges took this to prove that the girl had told the truth about the sexual abuse.

Standard Phrases as Justifications of Verdicts

As was noted above, the Swedish justification of the verdict may well consist of trivial standard phrases, which could be mechanically applied to any pattern of evidence.  I shall list a series of literal quotations from actual judgments.  But almost identical formulations can be found in numerous judgments by courts at all levels:

  1. "The injured party has given the impression of being trustworthy."
  2. "Her account bears the stamp of a self-experienced event." "Her account has given a clear impression of describing something she experienced herself."
  3. "Erna has delivered her account under great pain.  At her request the proceedings have repeatedly had to be interrupted."
  4. "During all [police and court] interrogations, she essentially stuck to her account."
  5. "Moreover, no reasonable explanation has emerged as to why Erna would lie about Dag."  "However, no circumstance has emerged, which might constitute a reasonable ground as to why Wendela would falsely accuse her father of a crime."
  6. "Erna has given the impression of neither wanting to exaggerate nor overstate the events."
  7. "Erna's account is in many respects connected with certain details, a pattern which strongly supports the conclusion that she has really experienced what she has recounted."
  8. "She has assured that she loves her daddy."

These specimens of sham reasoning reveal the low capacity of judges in assessing legal evidence, together with their excessive overestimation of their own qualifications.  These double features will be even more apparent on the basis of the Umeå case, to be described in a moment.  Statement G illustrates the trigonometry deduction above.

International readers may miss what is the meaning of statement F.  A girl may have postulated that her father had slept with her, say, 300 times.  In this situation the court may proceed as follows.  (1) A purely fictitious number is invented, which is invariably larger — say, 400 acts.  (2) The postulated number is compared with the fictitious number.  (3) The conclusion is drawn that the postulated number is lesser than the fictitious number.  (4) The lesser size of the postulated number is taken to prove that the girl has shown a certain moderation.  (5) The moderation shown by the girl is taken to prove that her account is true.  It would be instructive to see a Swedish judge construct an account which will not automatically be proved to be true, by means of the present argument.

In the case of Umeå (a town in Northern Sweden), 15-year-old Elfriede was subjected to memory recovery therapy by the combined effort of the child psychiatric clinic, the "Children's Rights in Society" (BRIS), and "The On-Duty-Service for [Maltreated] Women in Umeå.  They completely ruined her mental health, and implanted the idea that her father had abused her.  The true state of things was from the beginning immediately apparent to anyone, including the judges.

The leader of the pseudo-witness-psychologists (this term will be discussed later), Egil Ruuth, was appointed by the court to assess whether the girl had told the truth.  As could easily have been predicted, he stated that her account was self-experienced, and that no external influence was involved.

The father was convicted and sent to prison for 10 years.  But afterwards the three above-mentioned institutions proceeded to implant recollections of sexual abuse committed by 33 other males, some of them belonging to the top strata of society.  As a result, a new trial motion was granted, whereafter the father was acquitted.  After the second proceedings, the true state of things was completely accepted by the Court of Appeal in Umeå.

Now listen to what we may find in the first judgment passed by the same Court of Appeal (Skarstedt, Ingvarsson, Persson, Westmark, Lundström):

To begin with it is certified that Elfriede has given [1] a highly trustworthy impression upon the Court of Appeal.  In front of the court she has [2] in a highly realistic way manifested [3] anxiety, fear and panic as well as [4) such strong feelings of distress because of what has occurred, that the proceedings [5] had to be interrupted a number of times because of [6] her feeling sick and, at one occasion, her vomiting.  It must be considered [7] altogether improbable that Elfriede would manage to [8] "play up" this anxiety and feeling sick, etc.  Besides, she has, as far as known [9] shown similar reactions in the district court and in front of the examining doctor, and other people.  In other words, Elfriede appears as [10] trustworthy to a high degree, and what she has recounted [11] bears the stamp of self-experienced events.

I shall comment upon only one empirical and one logical mistake.  Even in the least trustworthy literature on sexual abuse, it is a tough job to find a description of a victim who showed such strong physical reactions while recounting her alleged experiences in the court.  By contrast, there is no want of victims of memory recovery therapy who have shown such reactions while recounting false memories.

One of the concealed premises of the court is, "Either Elfriede was deliberately vomiting like an actor, or else, her physical reactions were caused by her being overwhelmed by painful recollections of authentic assault.  There is no third alternative.  There is no need to supply any argument as to why the two alternatives are exhaustive."

This logical flaw is typical of the logic of judges and jurors.

The Differences Between The Three Scandinavian Countries

Within the psychological profession the difference is negligible, but outside the latter, the Scandinavian countries are conspicuously dissimilar.  Rationality and maturity are most prominent in Norway, and least so in Sweden.  Denmark occupies an intermediary position, whence less space will be devoted to Danish conditions.

Concrete examples may be more illuminating than abstract outlines.  In the beginning of 1993, seven persons were arrested in Bjugn, a Norwegian village of some 5000 inhabitants.  They belonged to quite different social strata, and their alleged close relations were a considerable surprise.  Supposedly, they had regularly taken some 40 preschool children from a day nursery to a barn at the other end of the village.  The children were completely undressed, whereafter the seven adults had been standing on a line masturbating.

When they were arrested, the mass media unanimously agreed that the same kind of a witch craze had befallen Bjugn as had previously taken place in Jordan, Minnesota and Cleveland, England.  Numerous jurists, social anthropologists, and other academicians likewise agreed.  The leader of the police investigation was immediately replaced and, after four weeks, all seven defendants were released.  Six of them were eventually removed from the cause list and the last suspect was acquitted by the district court.  Nonetheless, most people thought this was the greatest legal scandal of the century in Norway.

Sweden seems to be the only country in the world where the incest ideologists have obtained a complete hegemony.  They have gained control of almost all key positions within mass media, the academic world, public administration, and even among judges.  From these positions they may disseminate their own propaganda, stop criticism, and conceal the very existence of different views.  (Admittedly, a minimal change started since April 1993.)  It is by no means an empty guess that, if the pattern of the Bjugn craze had taken place in Sweden, all seven suspects would have been convicted, and that this outcome would have been unanimously hailed by the Swedish mass media and academic world.

Most Swedish defense counsels, even most of the famous ones, will do a poor job defending sexual abuse.  They will gather no facts themselves, but merely try to present an alternative interpretation of the facts (or sham facts) presented by the prosecutor.  The pseudo-witness-psychologists (about whom more will be said below) will declare any suspect guilty.  Prosecutors will often try to have such psychologists appointed by the court as "neutral and independent" experts.  Most lawyers cannot understand that there is a difference between psychologists, and do not realize they will send their own client to prison if they accept the prosecutor's choice of a psychologist.

The editor of the periodical of the Associations of Attorneys belongs to the incest ideologists.  Her selection of papers for publication reveals her systematic aim at undermining the position of the defense.  Unfortunately, this is tolerated by Swedish attorneys.  One of these articles (Gustavsson, 1992) is about the case of Embla, and it contains no less than 14 serious untruths.

A considerable number of Swedish institutions are working to prevent acquittals in trials concerning allegations of sexual abuse of children.  These include The National Board of Health and Welfare, Save the Children, The Children's Rights in Society, The Children's Ombudsman, The Association of Psychologists, The Supreme Court, The National Council for Crime Prevention.

Now to the Swedish case I promised to describe.  The geographic distance between Umeå and Södertälje is (from the Swedish point of view) enormous.  Hence, it is odd that the On-Duty-Service for Women in Umeå is involved in the Södertälje case.  The mental health of both (the Umeå girl) Elfriede and (the Södertälje girl) Elvira has gravely deteriorated because of memory recovery therapy.  Furthermore, their narratives are almost identical.  Elvira's psychotherapists were Hellis Sylwan (who is also involved in the case of Pontus described by Scharnberg, 1996a), Stig Broquist (who is also involved in the case of Cynthia described in Scharnberg, 1993a), and the American Stephen Harvey, who believes in the reality and high frequency of Satanic ritual murder.

Elvira, who was 15 years old at the time of her first report, eventually claimed that her father had practiced coitus with her since she was four years old.  Her mother had performed homosexual assaults.  For some years, the father had regularly hired her out as a prostitute on sex clubs and elsewhere, including to a man named "Mats."  She had participated in ritual murder of children, and had murdered one child herself.  Her father had slaughtered a total of 53 children, which he had eaten up.  "Mats" had cut off the head of a child and had performed coitus in the neck of the decapitated torso.  The bones of the children had been laid into plastic sacks and buried in the woods.  Persons belonging to the top strata of society had participated in the ritual abuse.

In the district court the father was convicted of sexual abuse.  He was likewise convicted of having hired out his daughter as a prostitute, despite the fact that the police had taken Elvira to all sex clubs within 25 miles, none of which she recognized — while her descriptions of the inner architecture and furniture of the sex clubs were flagrantly plagiarized from The Deaf People's House in Stockholm; Elvira's mother was deaf.

The latter was acquitted by the district court.  At that time, Elvira had not yet told anything about ritual murder.  The prosecutor appealed the acquittal.  But before the mother was tried in the Court of Appeal, the entire Swedish people could on television watch the police digging for corpses.  Although modern techniques certified that the entire woods were totally devoid of any corpse, the mother was convicted after these TV programs.

Because the daughter had eventually reported persons belonging to the top strata, a new trial motion was accepted by the Supreme Court.  The case was referred back to the Court of Appeal.  What took place there was a sham trial.  I believe the judges (Nilsson, Knutar, Karlholm, Högel, Edholm) must have reasoned as follows:

Both the Umeå father and the Södertälje father had been given the maximal sentence, on the basis of no more that the postulation of their daughters.  It was known to the entire Swedish people that the Umeå daughter was a victim of highly-strung psychologists.  Hence, the judges had revealed a conspicuous incompetence and irresponsibility.  If one more absurd judgment were corrected, the general population would lose all respect of the legal system.  Consequently, the father must be found guilty at any cost.

But the innocence of the father was obvious.  If all facts were presented, the Court of Appeal would have only two options: to acquit the father, or to produce a conviction whose absurdity would be flagrant to everyone.  Both options were equally repulsive.

Consequently, the defense had to be prevented from presenting the crucial evidence.  Also, as far as possible, experts should be appointed who could be trusted to support the indictment and, if necessary, to fabricate suitable evidence.

In addition, a "Salomonic" compromise should be found.  The new judgment should be of an intermediate severity, so that most people would conclude that the court was objective and just, and few, if any, critics on either side would be taken seriously.

When the case began, the police interrogator first talked to Elvira's foster mother, where she would learn what the girl had "disclosed" (a euphemism for what the foster mother had pressured Elvira to say).  Then the interrogator would try to have the girl confirm this story on the videotape.

On the early videotapes, Elvira continually signaled that she was under strong pressure.  She begged for a little support so that she might have the courage to tell the truth.  A typical statement is, "If you can see that I am lying, you must tell me."  But the interrogator reacted by promising to make the girl tell that she had been abused.  The witness psychologist, Astrid Holgerson, conducted a highly competent investigation of these facts.  But Dr. Holgerson was permitted only to testify' on general rules on the difference between true and false allegation.

In the Umeå case, the pseudo-witness-psychologist, Egil Ruuth, had conducted a maximally incompetent investigation which resulted in a prison sentence of 10 years for an innocent father.  Immediately after this had become apparent to the entire Swedish people, the Court of Appeal in Stockholm appointed Ruuth to teach the judges of the Södertälje case how to distinguish true allegations from false ones.

The Court of Appeal also appointed Kari Ormstad.  She is a medico-legal expert and an assistant professor.  In case after case, she has testified that trivial scars, most likely deriving from constipation, could only have been produced by anal assaults.  Unfortunately, most Swedish lawyers never doubt the words of medical experts.  But three cases are known to me in which the defense counsel called other medical doctors.  In all three cases Ormstad immediately made an about face.  She admitted that she had been mistaken, and joined the view of the experts for the defense.  Because she always refuses to battle, her reputation remains unimpaired.  Hence, her testimony is likely to remain unquestioned.

Four-year-old Pontus (described in Scharnberg, 1996a) had a markedly asymmetric glans.  This perfectly normal phenomena will eventually disappear without any treatment.  But Ormstad testified that the asymmetry derived from sexual assaults.

At the age of 20, Sharon was knocked down in the street, and was unconscious when she arrived at the hospital.  Her jaw was injured, and since this accident her jaw sometimes gets locked.  When at the age of 23 she reported her father for having performed oral assaults when she was 18, Ormstad testified that the jaw symptom was a typical result of oral sex.

Most importantly, the Court of Appeal in Stockholm had immediate experience of Ormstad's incompetence in what is in Sweden generally known as the "Huddinge" case (after the name of the Stockholm suburb).  The defendant is called "Reger" in Scharnberg (1993a). He was given a prison sentence of eight years, but acquitted after a new trial motion, after the defense found three competent experts.  This is one of those cases in which Ormstad made an about face.  Consequently, it was a provocation to appoint Ormstad for performing the gynecological examination of Elvira.

Was there a deliberate aim behind all the judicial decisions described above?

The Södertälje case and the football case took place at almost the same time, and at the same sub-department of the same Court of Appeal.  In the football case, all three psychologists supporting the prosecutor were permitted to start their testimony with a very long monologue, in which they supplied a coherent presentation of their view.  During their entire testimony they were free to talk about anything they liked.  But from the very start, the chairman of the court (Birgitta Widebäck, whom we may also recall from the case of Ingalisa) immediately forbade the expert witness for the defense to present 95% of his evidence.  As for the remaining 5%, he was only permitted to give brief answers to those brief questions someone happened to ask.

I am convinced that the judges knew that Elvira's and Wendela's fathers were innocent.  But they knew that they would not have the courage of convicting them, if all of the facts were presented.  The tragic fact is that all such things may go on right under the nose of reporters and others.  Yet, no reporter nor anyone else shows the slightest interest.  This is a pattern which has no counterpart in Norway or Denmark.

The Theory of the Hunter and the Prey

In case after case I have realized that I would have been incapacitated if only the alleged victim, or those who encouraged the development of the accusations, had been more skilled.  Nonetheless, I have also been astonished by the amateurish nature of most allegations.  It would be a mistake to believe that techniques could be developed which could expose any lie.  Rather, the relation between the lie expert and the liar seems to be analogous to the relation between the hunter and the prey.  Increased skill of catching/detecting will lead to increased skill of escaping/concealing.  And vice versa.

The individual who is recounting an authentic sequence of an event may find it difficult to avoid admixtures of irrelevant details.  Reading this in Trankell (1971), a police interrogator may decide to incorporate irrelevant details into the accounts sexual abuse so as to "prove" their authenticity.  As can be inferred from a large sample of cases, certain types of questions are highly prominent during different years, e.g., "Do you recall the color and pattern of the wall paper?"  "Did he threaten to kill the cat if you refused?"  In other words, "indicators of authenticity" may be included together with the false account.

Some Features of Fabulated Accounts

Helson's (1964) Theory of Adaptation Level may be applied to the psychology of lying.  Any human being has "a psychological thermometer," according to which some lies are small, and others are intermediary or big.  This "thermometer" is not stable.  If we tell a lie which is the biggest one we dare tell at that time, the thermometer might be stretched, so that the very same lie will eventually seem much less extreme.  We then may get the courage to tell a more bold lie.

This pattern, named the "Falstaff principle" by Scharnberg (1994), has been illustrated by Shakespeare, where the number of rascals which Falstaff alone had killed grows steadily every time he repeats the story.  As time goes by, a girl may deliver gradually more extreme versions of her original story.  Among the possible causes, theories about uncovered "repression" should not be taken seriously.  But the girl may be exposed to gradually more extreme indoctrination.  However, the two primary hypotheses are that the courage of the girl has increased, either to tell the whole truth, or to fabricate more bold lies.  When the entire series of versions are scrutinized, it is seldom difficult to distinguish the last two alternatives.

The significance of the concept of "twin lies" is that they have an enormous persuasive power (Scharnberg, 1994).  "A lie supported by a second lie is a truth" seems to be a rule firmly rooted in human nature.  The habitual liar passively adapts to the weaknesses of ordinary people.  In trial after trial, judges are taken in by this transparent technique.  Fourteen-year-old Graziella was always a habitual fabulator.  In the district court she said, while crying, "I would never lie about such a thing.  Everyone knows that I love my father."

Many fabulators reveal a tendency to adapt proposals suggested by someone else.  Embla, the 14-year-old girl described earlier, repeatedly said that each and every assault had taken place in her own room.  The police interrogator asked whether there had been no additional assaults in the car.  Embla then produced at first one, and then a second assault in the car.  Graziella repeatedly maintained that she had no idea as to whether her father had ejaculated during the rape.  The interrogator asserted that it was impossible that she could not know such things.  Then Graziella delivered a long and detailed account — the father had practiced coitus interruptus.  He was standing on his knees in the bed and pressed out the semen with his hand.  Thereafter, he went to the desk where dirty linen was lying on the floor and asked whether it was dirty linen.  When Graziella answered "yes," he wiped his penis.

Another recurrent phenomenon is in-between answers.  Embla was a virgin and was markedly ignorant of the details of sexual performance.  She claimed that her father had just unbuttoned her trousers during the intercourse.  The interrogator told her that this was not possible; the father must have drawn down her trousers.  Then Embla applied the device of inventing an intermediary state of things, which will (really or apparently) make room for the suggested pattern, but which will (really or apparently) not directly contradict the first version.  He did not draw her trousers down entirely."

One should always pay attention to richness or poverty of details.  This is, however, a very difficult subject, where simple rules will not do.  Some fabulators may present accounts which are devoid of any details except those immediately satisfying the aim of the fabrication.  Other fabulators may endlessly elaborate their accounts.  Strange combinations of both tendencies may be observed where despite the abundance of ornaments, essential central information is missing, which a genuine victim would not easily have failed to include.

Asymmetric distribution of details may be conspicuous.  For instance, Elvira was supposedly again and again fetched in Södertälje and taken to Mats's apartment in Stockholm.  She has an almost phenomenal memory as to how she and he were dressed at different occasions.  But she cannot tell anything about the car except that it was red, nor anything of the apartment except that it was near the Djurgård Bridge.  Moreover, sudden and marked increase or decrease in amount of details as the topic of the interrogation is shifted is a palpable feature in numerous accounts, such as in the ones presented by Ingalisa.

While fabulators may supply highly abstract versions devoid of concrete details, what is wrong may also be the location of abstraction rather than the degree of abstraction.  For instance, recollections distributed in relation to calendar years may, depending on the nature of the events or the nature of the job situation, be perfectly natural, or highly surprising.

Slips of tongue are not valid indicators (Scharnberg, 1994), though Ekman (1991) thinks otherwise.  But, in contrast to the empirical support he presents on other topics, here he merely repeats a few strange deductions by Freud.

Textual analysis comprises many more indicators as to something being wrong, and many more peculiarities to watch for.  In Scharnberg (1996a) I present some 50 indicators of deliberate untruths and in Scharnberg (1996b) I present a much briefer list of indicators of indoctrination in preschool children.

The Extremely Extroverted Personality

In my samples, most of the girls who have invented a false allegation on their own initiative are extremely extroverted.  Basically, all human beings occupy a position on a continuous scale from the most introverted to the most extroverted.  When I shall talk of introverted and extroverted types, this is merely a shorthand.  An introverted person is not more valuable than an extroverted.  Perhaps an individual is most pleasing to himself and others if he is not too extreme in either direction.  One of the fundamental features of extroverts is their reduced capacity for forming conditioned reflexes.  They are not easy but hard conditioners.

The entire personality is permeated with the strength of the capacity for forming reflexes.  Hence, the position of an individual on the scale may be established equally well by simple and complex measures.  For instance, a tone may start one second before air is blown into the eye.  We may count the number of repetitions needed until the eye lid will close involuntarily when the tone is heard.  Because extremely introverted individuals may be extremely easy conditioners, they may be at risk for developing neuroses, irrational fears, and sexual perversions.  Because extreme extroverts are hard conditioners, their moral development may be retarded.  They may be slow to learn to feel guilt and to be sensitive to the sufferings of other people.  Learning physiological control, e.g. of the bladder, may also be retarded.  Typically, Embla was still a bed-wetter at the age of 13.  Her insensitivity was particularly apparent in the court.  Despite the fact that a prison sentence was at stake, she was enjoying herself just as if she was attending a circus performance.

By amplifying or reducing the number of learning occasions, upbringing may to some extent compensate for the differential conditionability.  But a serious predicament is that deficient learning of normal societal rules may facilitate the learning of quite different behavioral patterns.  Because the extreme extrovert has not learned to feel guilt, he or she may lie in a much more convincing way than the general population.  The tone of voice, facial expressions, and choice of words or other verbal formulations may give a convincing impression of honesty.  Ekman (1991, p. 141) describes the case of Giovanni Vigliotti, who may have married 100 women.  "One of the things that attracted Patricia Gardner to Giovanni Vigliotti ... was that honest trait of looking directly into her eyes."  In the judgment by the district court in the case of Embla, we find the following testimony by her schoolteacher: "When Embla told these things, she looked deeply into her eyes, and she got the immediate impression that the girl was without any doubt telling the truth."

Of course, extroverts may also be sexually abused.  Extroversion does not function as a kind of prophylaxis which will protect against assaults.  But whenever an extremely extroverted individual appears to be excessively truthful, and whenever an individual appears to emit the typical extroverted "truthful" behaviors, there are strong reasons to watch out.  What should be watched is, first and foremost, one's own inclinations.  It is a real danger to the legal safety of the individual that judges and jurors imagine that they are producing rational decisions, when their impressions are simply the result of primitive psychological mechanisms.

In the short run the extreme extrovert may profit from lying.  But in the long run, the consequences may be devastating.  If the authorities encourage, or even demand, those behaviors which the extrovert needs most of all to overcome, he will learn completely inadequate ideas as to the nature of society.  He may eventually get in real trouble.  Should this happen, the authorities must accept their share of the responsibility for the outcome.

I have seen quite a few such cases.  Embla was always prone to lie and steal.  But after the trials, the police made it clear that everything would be forgiven, because it was supposedly caused by sexual assaults.  Suddenly her shoplifting reached altogether new levels.

The Swedish School of Pseudo-Witness-Psychologists

Many approaches for assessing the truth value of sexual allegations are little more than sham techniques.  They may look like devices for distinguishing true and false allegations.  But they may justify the inclusion of all allegations among the true ones.  A careful analysis of one school which has systematically worked out such sham techniques may enhance the vigilance of responsible professionals in other countries, so that they may be more more sensitive to analogous errors of other schools or individual psychologists in their own environment.

According to the deceptive propaganda (e.g., Norelius, 1991), there are two schools of witness psychology in Sweden, which are associated with the universities of Stockholm and Lund, respectively.  The former is based upon the theories of Arne Trankell and Astrid Holgerson.  The latter is based upon Trankell and Elizabeth Loftus.  What is the truth behind this propaganda?  Highly qualified witness psychological investigations have sometimes prevented absurd convictions.  Such outcomes are unacceptable to certain individuals and institutions.  These people did consider the possibility of eliminating witness psychology and substituting it with clinical psychology.  But witness psychology was too firmly rooted in Sweden.

A more realistic prospect was to create a second group of professionals who would usurp the name of witness psychologists.  They would accept investigations on behalf of courts and pose as neutral experts who were equally independent of the prosecution and the defense.  But they would secretly function as commissioned aids to the prosecutor.  Some of them, e.g. Bodil Hjalte and Barbro Sterner, have declared 100% of the suspects guilty.  Egil Ruuth is more ingenious.  Every other year he will select a suspect at random and declare him innocent.  Ruuth is the leader of the group, and his contribution to the Umeå case has already been described.

The entire group is specifically recommended by The National Board of Health and Welfare and The Association of Psychologists.  But the level of its qualifications is revealed by a sample of deductions produced by some of the members of the group.

bulletFour-year-old Corinna (the younger sister of Wendela of the football case) said, "Daddy has pee-weed into my mouth."  Hans Larsson testified that this statement belongs to those things which it is impossible to teach children to say.
bulletFour-year-old Delphine said, "Daddy has pee-weed into my navel."  Bodil Hjalte claimed in her investigation that: external influence may teach a four-year-old child songs and nursery rhymes.  But such a "complex narrative" as the quoted one could never derive from external influence.  Consequently, Delphine must actually have experienced an ejaculation produced by her father.
bulletSix-year-old Consuelo said that daddy had touched her in two places between her legs.  Margareta Norelius argued as follows: The mother is an immigrant who was recently illiterate.  Therefore, the mother could never have constructed such "a complex narrative."  Hence, Consuelo must really have been abused.
bulletFour-year-old Carola asked her father whether she could suck his ding-dong.  He answered: "No, such things are disgusting."  Margareta Norelius testified that there is one and only one way in which Carola could have learned about fellatio, that is by having been exposed to this variant by her father.

(A genuine witness psychologist soon found out that Carola had repeatedly been present when her mother practiced fellatio upon her lover.)

It would be a matter of routine to list any desired number of comparable examples.  But I shall restrict the following discussion to three topics: the pseudo-witness-psychologists as followers of Elizabeth Loftus; Egil Ruuth's contributions in the cases of Södertälje and Ingalisa; and the handling of the case of Corinna by the Court of Appeal.

In the case of Delphine, Hjalte conducted extensive interviews with all family members, and produced a written pronunciation of 28 compact pages.  This might give the impression of a comprehensive and meticulous work.  But the only part of the entire pronunciation which is not completely irrelevant is the few lines I have just recounted.  In the case at hand, Hjalte explicitly claimed to have applied the methods of Loftus and Trankell.  This was ingenious.  The late Trankell could no longer protest.  Neither was it likely that Loftus would protest, since she does not understand Swedish.

But I translated Hjalte's entire investigation into English and asked Loftus for a comment.  In her extensive affidavit to the district court of Kristianstad (Loftus, 1993), she completely rejected the methodology and conclusions of Hjalte, as being in accordance with neither Loftus's nor any defensible approach.  Astrid Holgerson, Trankell's successor as leader of the Witness Psychological Laboratory at the University of Stockholm, wrote another extensive affidavit, and explained why Hjalte's approach bears no relation to Trankell's methodology.

Any scientifically minded individual will realize that the above examples have nothing to do with Loftus or Trankell.  The same thing is true of what is said below about two other pseudo-Loftusians, Egil Ruuth and Hans Larsson.

Deductions by the Leader of the Pseudo-Witness-Psychology School

In case after case, Ruuth has applied his "criterion of differentiation."  If a girl claims that her father has performed two different kinds of sexual acts upon her, but one of them invariably is in one room, and the other invariably in another room, then this distribution of kinds of acts over kinds of room, is claimed to support the conclusion that the girl has told the truth.  Ruuth wisely abstains from supplying any argument as to why this should be so.  He applied the criterion in the case of Ingalisa.  But he read the police interrogations rather sloppily — the distribution is not at all found in the girl's account.

Complete absence of "differentiation" would mean that, at the very least, all members of the family had performed all varieties of assaults in all rooms at all times.  Hence, it is a matter of routine to prove by means of the criterion that any allegation is true.

During his testimony in the Södertälje case, Ruuth showed a videotaped police interrogation of a 12-year-old girl (Shirley), and pointed out various indicators which allegedly revealed that an account is true.  One such indicator is that the child's statements run counter to the interrogator's expectations.  The interrogator expected that Shirley had been exposed to fellatio, and had also masturbated upon the alleged offender, but one thing at a time.  However, the girl said that she had made the masturbatory movements while the penis was in her mouth.  She demonstrated such movements in front of her mouth, almost as if she was playing on a flute.

It goes without saying that no valid conclusion can be based upon such scarce information.  But the most probable hypothesis is that the girl, precisely because of want of authentic experiences, had misunderstood and mixed up what someone else had tried to teach her.  Such misunderstandings are commonplace among children within all areas, sexual or not.

Underwager and Wakefield (1990, p.100) quote from a police interrogation, where we know for certain that the four-year-old boy's allegation is the result of indoctrination.  If Ruuth's criterion was valid, the following excerpt would prove the authenticity of the indoctrinated event.

Deputy: Did he say not to tell anybody?

Billy: He said to tell everybody.

Below, we shall encounter the same pattern in relation to Corinna.

Among Ruuth's indicators of the authenticity of an account, we shall also find the following one.  A child or a teenager recounts that an assault which was just about to occur was prevented by an interfering event, e.g. "the door-bell was ringing."  It would be a formidable task to produce a non-absurd argument as to why this pattern would prove anything.  But I shall make a different point.  I immediately recognized the case of Ingalisa.  The following is a quotation from Ruuth's investigation:

Sometimes, Ingalisa believed she had just dreamt that she had been exposed to assaults by Sven Någonsson.  However, what made her completely convinced that she had not just dreamt [the assaults], was an event during springtime.  She was in her room reading a book, the name of which she can recall ("Thursday Children," vol.1).  Then Sven Någonsson said to her that he would like to see her naked.  Precisely at that moment one of her schoolmates rang at the door-bell [italics added].

Ingalisa claimed that she had been abused during an 8-year-period.  If repeated assaults during such a long period could not convince her that the abuse was anything else than dreams, it is enigmatic why the ring at the doorbell was so much more palpable.  Besides, she also claimed in July that the assaults ceased on the immediately preceding 1st of March.  But the schoolmate event is claimed to have taken place in April or May the same year.  Once more, we are reminded of the importance of carefully explicating and comparing temporal relations.

Young Children Mixing up Their Lessons

Anyone having any kind of experience with children, has repeatedly observed how they mix up things when they are told (true or false) things they do not understand.  In both the following examples, the mother is known to be the indoctrinator:

bulletFive-year-old Synnöve said that she had fucked her seven-year-old brother, while daddy had fucked granny.  [Her father was arrested on the basis of this evidence, but the cause was removed from the cause list after much labor by the attorney and two psychologists.]
bulletSix-year-old Vessela said that her father had done to her what the daddies and mummies do when they sleep together.  Asked whether she had seen her parents do it, she denied.  But she had seen it in the underground.  A boy had asked a girl, "Shall we do it?" and then they had kissed.  [The father was convicted.]

Corinna is one more child who mixed up things.  Sometimes she got pee into her mouth, but it came from the lavatory.  Sometimes daddy pee-weed into her mouth.  Sometimes it was she who pee-weed into daddy's mouth.  Or daddy pee-weed into her mouth because he thought this was the lavatory.  The last comment is typical of a child trying to make sense out of what, to her, must look quite surrealistic.

At the first police interrogation, Corinna said no more than that her father had pee-weed into her mouth in secrecy while both were having a bath.  But after two months of psychotherapy she said that mummy and another lady and gentleman had been onlookers to the act.  But the psychotherapist made a mistake.  She was so eager to teach the child new "memories," that she forgot to consolidate the earlier ones.  Hence, Corinna had at the second police interrogation more or less forgotten the secret bathroom acts.  On the video she is seen rolling around on the couch, being clearly bored by all the difficult questions, and saying "I don't recall" no less than 26 times.  These statements of hers definitely do not have the character of "I don't recall what I had for lunch," but rather "I don't recall the name of the capital of Albania."

It must be a formidable task to teach a 4-year-old to simulate amnesia.  Since the mother was prevented from being alone with the child during the preceding two months, she had no physical opportunity of indoctrinating the girl.  Nonetheless, the pseudo-Loftusian Hans Larsson invented the idea that Corinna's failing memory at the second police interrogation derived from her mother's having taught her to say that she did not recall anything about what the father had done to her.  Larsson's construction on this point is almost literally reproduced in the judgment.  So is his postulation that "Daddy pee-weed into my mouth" belongs to those things a child cannot be indoctrinated to say.

An additional circumstance is highly relevant also for my hypothesis about the advance decision by the Court of Appeal in the Södertälje case.  I (who was the expert witness for the defense in the football case) was permitted to state that Larsson's investigation is crank science.  But Judge Widebäck very aggressively stopped me from justifying my view.  Afterwards, she and her colleagues wrote in the judgment that Scharnberg's evaluation of Larsson's investigation should not be taken seriously, because Scharnberg had been unable to supply any justification for his view.

One more grave distortion is concerned with the older sister Wendela.  The judges must have realized the oddity of her postulation about oral sex performed while she was totally asleep.  Hence, they asserted (falsely) that she had said she was only half asleep, and that I had denied the possibility of a girl sensing fellatio in a condition of being half asleep.

We may be taking too much for granted, if we conceive of judges and psychologists as people doing honest mistakes.  Frequently, it is a more parsimonious hypothesis that they are aware of what they do.


Textual analysis has no special field of application, but may be used for assessing the truth value of allegations of sexual abuse.  The approach is an objective method.  By and large, its results have been in less need of subsequent modification than experimental results.

Close attention should always be paid to the physical possibility of the alleged act and to the combined pattern of all asserted temporal relations.  Other fundamental tools are the search for parallel order relations, the pruning technique, and the morphological approach.

Untrue accounts may derive from external pressure, from inner mental illness, or from ordinary fabulation.  These categories may combine: a spontaneous and harmless fabulation may under pressure lead to a legal conviction or a psychopathological personality may have a reduced resistance to external pressure.  Each of the following three sectors should be focused upon — the dynamics of the producer of the untruth, the dynamics of the untruth itself, and the dynamics of the receiver of the untruth.  The one who emitted the untruth may be either the producer, or else the mediating victim of the hidden producer.

The virtuoso liar should not be seen as an individual who has invented a series of efficacious techniques for deceiving others.  Rather, he is an individual who has passively adapted to the ordinary weaknesses of human nature.  Surprisingly, neither the producer nor the receiver of the untruth may be very proficient in distinguishing between fabrications which might correspond to an authentic state of things, and such ones which are discrepant from any possible state.  Hence, the producer may emit flagrant surrealistic versions and the receiver may not detect their surrealistic nature.  Judges and jurors may feel an irresistible inclination to believe in downright false accounts.  To some extent, the same physiological equipment may make a person prone to tell lies, and to evoke in others the firm belief that he is imparting the absolute truth.  Most or all lies derive from a total of two sources.  Moreover, many subtle features of untrue versions are described.

Finally, an analysis is given of a widespread Swedish system of invalid indicators for distinguishing between true and false allegations.  The secret aim of these indicators is to enable the assessing psychologist to include all allegations among the true ones.  Hopefully, my analysis may increase the vigilance and understanding of responsible psychologists in other countries as to the specific errors and persuasive devices encountered in their own surroundings.


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* Max Scharnberg is teaching the psychology of lying at Stockholm School of Economics, but correspondence should be addressed to the Department of Education, Uppsala University, P.O. Box 2109, S-750 02, Uppsala, Sweden. [Back]

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