Discovering Microexpressions in Retail

rilaThe ability to evaluate truthfulness, detect deception, and assess credibility is a crucial skill for professionals whose jobs require interviews, interrogations, and information elicitation of others according to Dr. David Matsumoto, a renowned expert in the field of micro- expressions, facial expression, gesture, nonverbal behavior, emotion and culture.

RILA’s Lisa LaBruno, senior vice president of retail operations, recently sat down with Dr. David Matsumoto, director of Humintell and general session speaker at the 2016 Retail Asset Protection Conference, to discuss how retailers can benefit from the understanding of non-verbal communication and possible new trends on the horizon that could impact the retail industry.

LL: How did your interest in non-verbal communication and micro-expressions develop?

DM: When I was an undergrad at the University of Michigan. I was assigned to conduct a research project and had always been interested in why infants could understand the emotional content of what their caregivers were saying, without really understanding the words. That led me to conduct my first cross-cultural study where I examined pre-schooler’s ability to recognize emotions in paralinguistic cues. That really started my research in this area. More specifically regarding microexpressions, while working in Paul Ekman’s laboratory in the 1980s, my colleagues and I became very familiar with these expressions and saw them in a lot of videos. My interest in microexpressions developed at that time, about 30 years ago.

LL: How can retailers benefit from understanding the world of non-verbal communication? What practices/tools can they use day-to-day?

DM: Retailers can use nonverbal communication in a myriad of ways. How it can be applied depends largely on what domain the retailer is in. For example, for those in loss prevention, it’s mainly about investigation so you can always use these kinds of skills for investigative and interviewing purposes. You can also use nonverbal communication to identify suspicious behavior in stores. Sales people can use nonverbal communication to read a potential customer and buyers and sellers can use it in negotiation. So nonverbal communication is a skill that can be used everywhere, in every domain of retail business.

LL: How do you remove yourself from ‘work mode’ when conversing with family and friends? Do you find yourself analyzing their facial cues?

DM: You cannot stop perceiving what you perceive. What you have more control over is what you do about your perceptions (how you react). I happen to perceive a lot of things at home and elsewhere, but make a conscious effort not to do anything about most of what I see. If I intervened or reacted to everything I saw, many people would feel that I’m being intrusive. Doing so would not be the most socially appropriate thing to do, so I generally don’t do that.

LL: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to be throughout your career?

DM: I don’t know if I have one accomplishment that’s better than another and to tell you the truth, I view my work career as just my work career. Although I think I’ve accomplished a lot by my research and teachings, I realize in that world, I am just one wheel of many wheels of science, training and research that has continued before me and will continue after me. To tell you the truth, I think my greatest accomplishment will be the legacy I hope to leave society through my children.

LL: What about the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

DM: My biggest challenge has always been how to deal with systems and people who have very different motives and ways of being that I think are not constructive to a common cause of being constructive. It’s tough dealing with systems that don’t want to change.

LL: Do you see any new non-verbal communication/behavior trends on the horizon that will impact the retail industry?

DM: I think that the growing awareness of the importance of nonverbal communication and behavior in the retail industry is great. One trend that everyone is trying to latch onto is the development of technologies to read nonverbal behaviors in others. However, I don’t think there is any technology out there today that reads these behaviors as well as the human brain, and I believe we are many, many years away from having that kind of technology. So despite the seductiveness of that kind of technology, I hope that people who are really discerning individuals will understand the best investment they can make is to train their people. I think those are some of the challenges that will come to the retail industry, as wel

Experts Give Tips in Spotting Deception

PinnochioBy Seth Bornstein WASHINGTON (AP)

Spotting a lie isn’t as quick and easy as it looks on television.

With time and training, it is possible to get a good sense of when someone is deceiving you, experts say.

“It’s really about how to observe very carefully,” said Pamela Meyer, author of the book “Liespotting” and chief executive officer of the private firm Calibrate, which trains people and companies about how to spot deception. “It’s really not a parlor trick.”

It’s a skill that can be developed with practice, said David Matsumoto, a San Francisco State University professor of psychology. He’s also a consultant to law enforcement and intelligence agencies and chief executive officer of Humintell, a company that trains police agencies, lawyers and businesses in how to read emotions.

Some clues to detecting deception:



There is no magic tell or giveaway, Meyer and Matsumoto said. There are hints — or “leakage,” as Meyer calls it — but they aren’t the same for everyone.

What experts look for is change from truth-telling to deception, but not one specific change. So they need a baseline, a sense of what people look and talk like when their guard is down and they are telling the truth.

While it is possible to get a baseline with 20 seconds to 30 seconds of observation, it works better with more time. Different people have different baselines. Some people can act nervous — especially when being questioned by police — even if they are telling the truth.

Once a normal is established, the idea is to ask open-ended questions and look for cues, changes in verbal and nonverbal behavior, Meyer said.



Look for changes in language and grammar, Matsumoto said. Meyer points to distancing language, such as Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

Liars may split hairs, decline to answer, change the subject or tone, protest a question, even put up their hands while protesting, Meyer said.

Also, look for extraneous information. That’s often is a clue of deception, but not always, Matsumoto said.

Police will ask for a disjointed or backward timeline of someone they are interrogating, he said. Constructed fake memories are done in chronological order so they are harder to call up backward.



There’s a myth that fidgeting is a sign of lying, Meyer said. Some people naturally fidget or naturally freeze. The key is change, not a specific action, she said.

That said, look at the face, Matsumoto recommended: “If something happens in the face it can happen anywhere” on the face.

“Research has shown that the bulk of messages in any action is communicated nonverbally,” Matsumoto said.

Meyer tells people to look at the smile. A real smile is seen in the eyes, a fake smile is only in the mouth. Also watch for a smile of contempt with one lip corner curled, as if the liar thinks he or she is getting away with something, Meyer said.



The National Academy of Sciences gave a decidedly mixed review to the usefulness of polygraphs, especially as a means of screening out potential security threats in advance.

A 2003 report said that if the person being examined isn’t trained in countermeasures that can fool a lie detector machine, “specific-incident polygraph tests can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates well above chance, though well below perfection.”

But the same report said “almost a century of research in scientific psychology and physiology provides little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy.”

Matsumoto said much research points to the quality of the polygraph examiner, not the machine itself, as the most important factor.

Well-trained people can divine truth without the machine, Matsumoto said — just ask his children.

“My family gave up a long time ago trying to lie to me,” he said.

6 Steps to Effective Interview Body Language

1 meeting - peopleFrom USA Today

You sound great on the phone, by e-mail and in social media. Don’t blow it in person. It’s not just what you actually say in an interview that matters; your body language talks, too.

Here are some helpful tips on what is appropriate interview body language.


Shakespeare once said that “the eyes are the window to your soul,” which can obviously make direct eye contact feel uncomfortable and overly intimate. However, as awkward as you may feel staring into your interviewer’s eyes, it’s important to maintain eye contact throughout your interview.

If there’s more than one person at the meeting, make sure to have eye contact with whoever is talking as they ask you questions, and then give each person some uninterrupted eye contact time as you answer. Hold eye contact for too long though, and it may begin to feel a bit aggressive, so you need to figure out the sweet spot of when to break eye contact and how to do so without looking shifty.


One of the first things you’ll do in most interviews is shake hands with the person or people there to conduct the interview. This is an important part of making a good impression so you want to be sure your grip is firm and strong, but not too strong, since nobody wants to feel like you’re trying to break their hand. If you’re nervous, your hand may also be sweaty so try to discretely wipe your hand before you walk into the room so you’re not shoving your clammy hand into your interviewer’s.


If you use hand gestures when you talk to make a point, feel free to do so in your interview. That being said, you shouldn’t be using hand gestures so much that it looks like you’re playing charades. Keep it natural, and when you don’t need your hands, keep them open and palms up on the table or on your knees. You don’t want to cross your arms or lean your face against one because that makes you seem more defensive and bored, and avoid cracking your knuckles, too, because gross.


Sit up straight and make sure you’re touching the back of your chair to portray confidence and so you don’t slouch. However, you don’t want to sit back too far or it’ll make you seem overly relaxed and casual. Having good posture will also help you sit still for your interview and give you an air of professionalism and maturity. Additionally, you’ll want to angle your body towards whoever is speaking and make sure you lean in so your interviewer recognizes you’re interested and engaged.


While it may be your go-to foot arrangement, don’t cross your legs during an interview as it’s obvious and distracting when you change from one leg being crossed to the other (which, inevitably, you’d end up doing). Instead, either plant both your feet on the ground or if need be, cross your legs at the ankles. This will also help you not move too much during your interview, which can portray boredom and impatience — not things that will help you land the job.


When the interviewer or other people present are speaking, it’s important to be engaged and to convey your engagement and the easiest and best way to do so is by smiling and nodding. You don’t need a toothy grin across your face the whole time — a pleasant, friendly smile will do. Also, don’t nod throughout the entire time another person is speaking; you’re not a bobblehead. Actually listen to what your interviewer is saying and choose when to nod, when to make a quick comment to show you’re following them, and when to just sit there and smile.

If you’ve got the interview, you’re one step closer to landing the job — so don’t let your body language bring you down during the interview. Keep these tips in mind and your body language will be interview-appropriate and professional.

For more on first impressions, take a look at our past blog

Expression of the Day: Duchenne Smile


There are many different types of happiness including elation, euphoria, excitement, and amusement. However, research has shown that these enjoyable emotions are all expressed on the face the same way: by the Duchenne Smile. A Duchenne Smile occurs when the lip corners move up and the muscle around the eyes moves as well. Oftentimes you see wrinkles around a person’s eyes. This is often described as a “twinkling” or “sparkling” in the eyes.

For more on smiles, take a look at these past blog posts!

Duchenne Smiles

Smiling May Lead to Longer Life!

Fun Facts about Smiles

The Science of Happiness

Have you ever wondered what happens to the human body when it’s happy? This is the science behind happiness!

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Here are more fun facts about smiles!

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