Actions Might Speak Louder Than Words but Do They Speak Louder Than a Lack of Action?


One of the writers on big think  began a series on “Lessons from Sherlock Holmes” that explains a bit about the decision making process and the value of things that are missing when analyzing a situation, which also happens to be a very important part of intelligence analysis.  Quoted from the post…

When Inspector Gregory asks, “Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” Holmes responds, “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” But, protests the inspector, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” To which Holmes delivers the punch line: “That was the curious incident.”

This reminded me of a homicide case I once worked on where it was the lack of actions that really pointed the biggest finger at the suspect. In this particular case a woman killed her husband but claimed they had a fight and he stormed off so she just picked up the pieces and moved on without even one phone call after he left. As the case came together there was a lot of circumstantial evidence that pointed to her but what really stuck out was the absence of phone calls to her husband after he allegedly left the house.  Phone traffic between spouses who don’t have a fight is generally pretty high nowadays and when one of them leaves the house after an argument and doesn’t come back you better believe there will be a barrage of calls to follow.  In the end she was found guilty and is serving a very long sentence at one of our fine correctional facilities where she still professes her innocence.

A more recent case that didn’t have the same outcome and had a huge outpouring of public dissatisfaction (due at least in part to the Nancy Grace factor) so much so that I won’t bother mentioning it by name, all centered around the absence of a missing child report for some 30 days.  While the evidence presented in the case didn’t amount to enough for a jury to come back with a guilty verdict it was this lack of action by the defendant that sparked all the rancor and  is probably what caused much of the discontent with the verdict.

As analysts, and in every type of investigation, it’s important to point out the things that are missing since they often prove to be the most important yet the easiest to overlook.

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About bloodhoundbetty

I love tracking things down and sniffing things out, mystery and intrigue, searching and researching, finding a needle in a haystack, puzzles, riddles, and things that are clever and thought provoking.

Posted on 26 July 2011, in Decision Making and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Very interesting post! Though I would caution against placing too much emphasis on how we think a person ought to emotionally respond to a situation. It can be a great jumping off point for further investigation but if your assumption is incorrect, everything that comes after will be incorrect as well.

    “They must have killed their child because they aren’t upset enough at the death” – “He must be guilty because an innocent person would be a lot more angry at being interrogated” – for examples – are dangerous mindsets and can be roads into tunnel vision if the investigator isn’t very careful.

    Anyway – I’m a new reader to this blog and look forward to having some interesting discussions and learning a lot in the process.

  2. bloodhoundbetty

    Welcome to the IntelCloud Diana! I appreciate the insightful comments and agree, too much emphasis on the ‘shoulds’ of human behavior can really cause problems. Your quotes are exactly what we hear night after night from so many court room drama news personalities who aren’t concerned with objective reasoning and their viewers pick up the cause and run with it, usually straight to Facebook to create a fan page, and it just gains even more momentum from there.

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