ICYMI: Improve Your Negotiation Skills by Understanding Microexpressions

From Clearly Influential with Sandy Donovan:

“Don’t you just always want to know what the other person is thinking? Whether a co-worker, significant other or the stranger I met in the grocery store – I always want to get inside their mind. I’m constantly wondering what they are REALLY thinking.

Unfortunately, a lot of us just aren’t that good at reading non-verbal cues. Something we haven’t talked about yet on this show is microexpressions. They’re tiny flashes of expressions that pop up on a face for a short time – so short that you won’t even notice unless you’re trained to. I’m talking like a tenth or fifteenth of a second. What’s cool is that the person making these expressions probably doesn’t notice that they’re making these expressions either. It happens at the subconscious level. What’s interesting is that these expressions can show us a person’s true emotion. They express fear, anger, happiness…. all the regular emotions, but at a fraction of a second, it goes unnoticed.

Our guest today says that, with training, you can become up to 90% accurate in reading these emotions. Imagine that! Most people don’t even know they exist, but with a little practice, you’ll know what people are feeling 90% of the time. Imagine the leg up that can give you in negotiations.

Dr. David Matsumoto, Director of Humintell, is a renowned expert in the field of microexpressions, facial expression, gesture, nonverbal behavior, emotion and culture. He has published over 400+ articles, manuscripts, book chapters and books on these subjects. Since 1989 Matsumoto has been a Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University. He is also the Founder and Director of SFSU’s Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory. The laboratory focuses on studies involving culture, emotion, social interaction and communication. In 2009, Matsumoto was one of the select few to receive the prestigious Minerva Grant; a $1.9 million grant from the US Department of Defense to examine the role of emotions in ideologically-based groups. He trains law enforcement, is the author of numerous books and is a 7th degree black belt.

Today is all about finding concealed emotion and noticing indicators that most others don’t even notice. Understanding this information will certainly give you better insight into what your audience is thinking and feeling.”

The Trustworthiness of an Inmate’s Face May Seal His Fate

inmate-visitThe perceived trustworthiness of an inmate’s face may determine the severity of the sentence he receives, according to new research using photos and sentencing data for inmates in the state of Florida. The research, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveals that inmates whose faces were rated as low in trustworthiness by independent observers were more likely to have received the death sentence than inmates whose faces were perceived as more trustworthy, even when the inmates were later exonerated of the crime.

“The American justice system is built on the idea that it is blind to all but the objective facts, as exemplified by the great lengths we go to make sure that jurors enter the courts unbiased and are protected from outside influences during their service. Of course, this ideal does not always match reality,” say psychological scientists John Paul Wilson and Nicholas Rule of the University of Toronto, co-authors on the study.

“Here, we’ve shown that facial biases unfortunately leak into what should be the most reflective and careful decision that juries and judges can make — whether to execute someone.”

Previous research had documented a bias against faces perceived as untrustworthy, but much of the research had relied on study participants contemplating criminal verdicts hypothetically. Wilson and Rule were interested in knowing whether this bias extended beyond the lab to a very real, and consequential, decision: whether to sentence someone to life in prison or to death.

The researchers capitalized on the fact that the state of Florida maintains a comprehensive database of photos of all its inmates; Florida is also one of the states that still regularly delivers death sentences.

The researchers obtained photos of 371 male inmates on death row in Florida — 226 of the inmates were white, 145 were black, and all were convicted of first-degree murder. They converted the photos to gray scale to minimize any variations in the images and asked an online panel of 208 American adults to look at the photos and rate them on trustworthiness using a scale from 1 (not at all trustworthy) to 8 (very trustworthy). The raters also evaluated photos of age- and race-matched inmates who had also been convicted of first-degree murder but received a sentence of life in prison instead of death. Importantly, the raters did not know what sentence an inmate had received, or even that the photos depicted inmates.

Wilson and Rule found that inmates who had received the death sentence tended to be perceived as less trustworthy than those sentenced to life in prison; in fact, their analyses showed that the less trustworthy a face was deemed, the more likely it was that the inmate received the death sentence.

This association remained even after the researchers took various other factors — such as facial maturity, attractiveness, and the width-to-height ratio of the face — into account.

The researchers point out that the inmates in the two groups had committed crimes that were technically equally severe, and neither sentence would have allowed for the inmates to return to society — as such, the motivation to protect society could not explain the harsher punishment doled out to the less trustworthy looking individuals.

“Any effect of facial trustworthiness, then, seems like it would have to come from a premium in wanting to punish people who simply look less trustworthy,” they explain.

More striking, a follow-up study showed that the link between perceived trustworthiness and sentencing emerged even when participants rated photos of inmates who had been sentenced but who were actually innocent and were later exonerated.

“This finding shows that these effects aren’t just due to more odious criminals advertising their malice through their faces but, rather, suggests that these really are biases that might mislead people independent of any potential kernels of truth,” say Wilson and Rule.

The research ultimately shows just how powerful appearances can be in guiding judgment and decision making, influencing outcomes in situations that are literally a matter of life and death.

“In a few states, like Florida, it only takes a majority of jurors to sentence someone to death. In Alabama, judges even have the power to override juries that choose a life sentence by unilaterally replacing that sentence with the death penalty, which actually happens with some regularity,” the researchers note.

“We think it is critical that people know and understand that these biases exist, else they might not have the presence of mind to police their thoughts and overcome them,” they add. “Every jury-eligible citizen is subject to participating in the process of delivering justice to others, meaning that the majority of people have a stake in better understanding how peripheral information like facial appearance can bias their ability to perform their civic duty.”


This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

All data and materials have been made publicly available via Open Science Framework and can be accessed at https://osf.io/54skn/files/

Do Apes Laugh When Tickled?

Apes often make weird sounds when they’re tickled, and some researchers now say these pants and hoots truly are related to human laughter.

That’s the conclusion of a new study in the journal Current Biology that analyzed the “tickle-induced vocalizations” of infant and juvenile apes as well as human infants.

Psychology of the Awkward Text Message

Cellular Phone - Bigger Screens Are More Satisfying - Humintell A recent Washington Post article written by Caitlin Dewey states that the average person sends and receives 42 texts each day and that many of these texts seem far too intimate to discuss by short messages sent through your phone.

The popularity of text messaging was not something that the inventors of it anticipated. It was a pain to tap out each message, and even more inconvenient to wait for a response. Not to mention how impersonal it was. However, as cellphone use expanded in the mid 1990s and more phones gained the ability to text, texting’s popularity grew.

“The seeming limitations of the SMS system became one of its strengths,” communications scholar Colette Snowden wrote. “The capacity for asynchronous silent communication was especially attractive to users because it extended the places in which their cell phones could be used.”

Dewey states that “Psychologically speaking, there were some obvious, emerging selling points to text messages, too: like the fact that you could take your time to craft a perfect response, or that you’d be forced to simplify ideas and arguments that might become much more complicated in spoken conversation.

Most important, however, writes social psychologist and professor Theressa DiDonato, texting eliminates the nonverbal signals that account for the majority of human communication. Posture, expression, eye contact, gestures, tears — all replaced by the blissful convenience of 160 characters”.

An interesting but probably not surprising statistic: 60% of daters would now dump their partner via text. In fact, a 2011 study found that, after expressing affection, “discussing serious issues” and “apologizing” were the most common reasons people text, chat or e-mail a partner. It’s just easier, cleaner — certainly simpler! — to text “I’ve secretly loved you since third grade” or “you’re fired.”

Dewey asks “Is it bad that these intimate conversations have migrated to text? Well, the evidence on texting and relationships is mixed. Studies have found that couples who text frequently talk less … and, alternatively, that friends and partners who send affectionate messages are closer than their non-texting equivalents. Still, there’s something to be said for mess. For awkwardness. For cringing, even”.


What’s in a Handshake?

Written by Humintell Affiliate Christian Andrada

It could be argued that no nonverbal act generates as much impact as a handshake. A handshake is often enough to determine your competitive position against another person, your negotiating style, and how you relate to the world.

Historically the handshake has transcended cultures and times. It has always been conceived as a ceremonial act that opens the possibility of dialogue between two people who are just getting to know each other. It also persists as a method of social exchange that legitimizes the existence of a link, a sign of health, survival, security, demonstration of feelings and of course, social harmony.

A handshake is a common gesture, but not universal. In some cultures, particularly around the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, it is preferable to greet with a hug or a kiss without touching the cheek, especially between good friends. In other areas such as Asia, they prefer a strong handshake that moves up and down in a short time with hands upright. However in the Middle East, you can not shake hands with a woman unless she is who offers, even in the business context. Regarding Latin America, there are some variations by country, but in all places a handshake is conceived a ceremonial act and reveals good manners and education.

With a handshake, in a few seconds we show how we want to be perceived and what we perceive from others, which can be decisive in an employment relationship, or in an interview or businesses setting. If you want manage your handshake and to be able to communicate effectively, is necessary to consider some variables:

  • The spatial distance to whom the greeting is done: intimate, personal or social.
  • Balance: equal distance (handshake) from one another, or closer to either of them.
  • Hand angle: Perpendicular and horizontal to the ground.
  • Hand grip strength: From the classic “fish handshake “to ” knuckle-crushing handshake”
  • Handshake time: From the first contact to stay greeting for more than 10 seconds.
  • Eye contact: can be in social or intimate depending on context.

We must keep in mind the way you greet someone is a sure sign about your personality. It is a problem if you do not modify or adapt your greeting according to the circumstances and your purpose.  The next time you greet to someone, keep in mind that you will say more about you than you could control.

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