Detecting Deception: Are You Being Lied to?

BN1213-NonverbalsWritten for Tactics and Preparedness, Issue 6, April 2014
By Dr. Hyi Sung Hwang and Dr. David Matsumoto

Behavioral anomalies are verbal and nonverbal signs of cognitions and emotions that give additional clues to what an individual is thinking and feeling beyond the content of the words being spoken. We can improve our ability to detect lies by becoming more skillful in reading the reliable nonverbal behavioral indicators to lying. The first and most important step is to learn to recognize facial expressions of emotions that are called basic emotions. Basic emotions have various fruitful and discrete characteristics. For one, they appear to be universal and spontaneous and thus difficult to hide once the subject is emotional. That means all people, regardless of race, culture, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, religion or any other demographic variable, express emotions on their faces in similar ways. The basic, universal emotions that are commonly communicated and identified are anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Here are examples of the facial expressions of emotion that research over the past four decades suggest are universally expressed and recognized.

Most of us may be easily able to identify each emotion listed in the static photo images illustrated. In real life, however, those emotional expressions on the face are sometimes not held long enough for us to catch them, disappearing so quickly that we don’t notice them. These expressions are impossible to completely control, just as we cannot or do not count the numbers of blinks of our eyes. These expressions are called microexpressions.

Micro-expressions have been well known as a critical source of information in deception detection. They are very fast fleeting expressions of concealed emotions, sometimes as fast as 1/15th of a second. The reason they are so quick is that they “leak out” very quickly despite the fact that the individual may be trying to conceal them. Most untrained people do not notice them in daily social interactions. They are immediate, automatic and unconscious reactions. However, once you get used to recognizing them, you will see that they are the closest thing to a universal language.

What we have to remember for our hybrid learning process is to practice to read those emotional expressions on the face in real life, especially at similar speeds to the ones that actually occur in our lives and especially during stressful interactions and situations. If you can, observe certain micro-expressions that are flashed by a subject during your dialogue. For example, you may consider that there may be concealed thoughts, feelings or pinions held by this individual that are not being verbalized. This does not always necessarily refer to a signal of deception; rather, they provide clues or you to know what topic to explore and where to investigate closely and carefully in order to rule out any possible deceptive clues. For example, a fearful flash on the face may be a good stop station for you to understand the background of why the individual expressed it or what the person was afraid of disclosing. Of course, at the end, whether you can successfully obtain accurate information and answers to your questions may depend on your rapport with the individual and your communication strategies. The nonverbal indicators can flag you where to pay attention during the limited time of your interaction.

As a second step, understanding the context in which micro-expressions occur would be valuable because the potential inconsistency between the expressions and the context often means that the subject feels something differently than what is being said. For example, if you observed your subject displaying a earful face when he or she said, “I definitely did not meet the guy,” you may want to avoid jumping to a conclusion that the person did not really meet the guy because the context in this case, the person’s statement, informed you that the behavioral indicator does not match the context. We call it a hot spot here practitioners should carefully interpret the meaning of the individual’s reported information in relation to the microexpression displayed. Although someone is faking an emotion, there are times when an inconsistent behavioral indicator with the context does not give you a simple final answer concerning f the subject is lying or not. It would aid you to get closer to the facts and to understand what is being said and not.

Facial expressions of emotion and microexpressions are largely involuntary reactions and important nonverbal behavioral indicators that can be important cues to deception that can be applicable across people of different cultures. In many situations, the interviewer is primarily focused on the story being told and not so much on how it is old and what is being shown when it is told. Thus, just as it is often fruitful to evaluate politicians based on their actions, policies and achievements ather than the words they speak, when communicating with others one should pay attention to the validated facial expressions of emotion and micro- xpressions. Of course, it sounds easier than it is in practice because observing multiple behavioral channels while simultaneously participating in the act f communicating is never simple. However, training and practicing the ability to recognize micro-expressions can aid individuals to be more accurately aware of potential hotspots in deception detection. We believe that continued discipline based on scientific evidence will strengthen an individual’s accuracy of eception detection and aid in assessing an entire story more accurately.

Past Blog: Can Learning Microexpressions Help People?

hand_holding_a_book-t2We often get numerous emails about the practical use of microexpression training and if it has been proven to be beneficial to learn.

The simple answer is yes.

Microexpression training has been scientifically proven to help improve not only the average person in recognizing these expressions, but also a number of clinical groups.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia is a “chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects 1.1 percent of the US Population 18 or older.” Common symptoms of schizophrenia include “hearing voices that others don’t hear, believing that others are broadcasting their thoughts to the world or becoming convinced that others are plotting to harm them.”

There have been several studies that have shown that microexpression training benefits people with schizophrenia in their ability to read emotions and track faces. (Frommann,  Streit, & Wolwer, 2003; Russell, Chu, & Phillips, 2006; Russell, Green, Simpson, & Coltheart, 2008; Silver, Goodman, Knoll, & Isakov, 2004; Wolwer, Frommann, Halfmann, Piaszek, Streit, & Gaebel, 2005)

This breakthrough research allows for the possibility of using a microexpression training tool, like MiX, as a non-pharmacological intervention technique to treat individuals who are affected by this disorder.

In addition, there has been much emotion training literature that has been focused on training people with developmental or social disabilities, including individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome (e.g., Barnhill, Cook, Tebbenkamp, & Myles, 2002), Autism (Bolte, Hubl, Feineis-Matthews, Prvulovic, Dierks, & Poustka, 2006; Solomon, Goodlin-Jones, & Anders, 2004), mental retardation (McAlpine, Singh, Ellis, & Kendall, 1992; Stewart & Singh, 1995), to individuals with acquired brain injury (Guercio, Podolska-Schroeder, & Rehfeldt, 2004).

Many of these studies show that it is possible to train these individuals to improve their perceptions of the emotions of others and often fairly quickly- with positive results within a single training session. These results also persist beyond the training session and are often with positive effects on their interactions with others (e.g. Solomon, et al, 2004)

These results are both facinating and optimistic for the future.

Microexpression training could be the next step in helping people with developmental or social disabilities groups to read emotions and track faces without the use of pharmaceutical drugs.

The Hidden Power of Smiling

Entrepreneur Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and reveals some surprising results.

Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you’ll live — and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being? Prepare to flex a few facial muscles as you learn more about this evolutionarily contagious behavior.

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More on the baseball smiling study Gutman mentions can be found here

The Smell of Fear and Disgust

© Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Among our five senses, the sense of smell is the oldest sense. People can detect at least one trillion distinct scents and research has shown that women have a better sense of smell than men.

One interesting study published in the journal Psychological Science entitled “Chemosignals Communicate Human Emotions” suggest that people can smell feelings of fear and disgust through sweat, and then they can experience the same emotions.

The 2012 study conducted at Utrecht University in the Netherlands collected sweat from men as they watched movies that elicited feelings of fear and disgust. To remain odor-neutral, they asked the men to use scent-free products, quit smoking and eliminate alcohol consumption.

Women participants they completed visual search tests, which unknowingly smelling the sweaty samples. They eye movement and facial expressions were recorded and examined.

Researchers found that women who smelled the “fear sweat” opened their eyes widely in a fearful expression, and the women who smelled the “disgust sweat” also displayed facial expressions of disgust.

The researchers suggest that these findings underline the neglected social relevance of chemosignals in regulating communicative correspondence outside of conscious access.

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.”

Copyright © Humintell 2014