News | Thursday, 11th October 2018

Linguistics Professor stars in crime documentary Faking It

Professor Dawn Archer examines language of the world’s most notorious criminals

Professor Dawn Archer stars in crime documentary Faking It
Professor Dawn Archer stars in crime documentary Faking It

A Linguistics Professor at Manchester Metropolitan has used her expertise to shed new light on cases of the world’s most notorious criminals.

Professor Dawn Archer, Research and Knowledge Exchange Coordinator for the Department of Languages, Information and Communications, will appear in Faking It: Tears of a Crime – a documentary on Investigation Discovery that uses experts in psychology, body language and linguistics to examine police CCTV footage and TV appeals of criminals who claim innocence.

The Listener

This is the third series in which Prof Archer has appeared in the documentary as the “Listener”.

Prof Archer looked deep into the cases of 20 criminals, including Britain’s most prolific serial killer Harold Shipman. She listened for unusual speech patterns and language usage that betrayed guilt or was used as a way of convincing the public of their story.

Prof Archer said: “I find it really interesting, as we’re asked to look at and analyse data from a variety of cases, which all share the theme of someone potentially being deceptive, in order to cover up their involvement in a crime. Some of the cases make for particularly heart-wrenching reading, though.  

“As well as the language used it’s also important to look at that in parallel with a person’s body language and facial movements – sometimes they might sound calm, and might work hard to use what they believe are the right words in order to sound credible (and convincing), but their facial movements or fidgeting all point to the person’s anxious state.” 

Prof Archer worked alongside two other experts. The “Watcher”, who will pinpoint split-second body signals that give the game away, and the “Profiler”, who climbs inside the mind of each perpetrator to answer the questions: ‘Who are they? What drove them to it? Why did they ever think they’d escape justice?

The series will run over a ten week period, with the first episode airing on Friday 12 October.

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