Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 5 “Grevious Bodily Harm” Comments

lie-to-me86white-spaceIn this episode, Cal Lightman thwarts a counterfeit ring while ridiculing the FBI and the rest of the team expose an abusive teacher.

All in a day’s work.

I can’t help but think that this season the producers have given up on showing anything that is really based in science and basically are just using the concepts and terms we have created in the science but are just applying them wherever it seems to fit in the plot for dramatic effect, regardless  of what behavior is really shown.

Every time one of the Lightman team call out something – anger, fear, contempt, surprise, shame – I am keen to look at what they are highlighting in their flashes or showing in their images. Most of the time, not all, the behavior being portrayed has NOTHING to do with what the signals for those emotions look like in real life.

This episode went further, calling out homicidal intent and suicidal intent, both states of mind for which there is no published data on.

I am sure future shows will continue to do much of the same and call out all kinds of ways the Lightman team can read people’s minds and predict future behavior. If it were only true!

Yes I know it’s all for television drama and I am all for that. I am a big fan myself of  TV drama. When I watch other shows, I just zone out get into the drama and my brain probably just shuts down critical thinking and gets into that nice delta wave place of pleasurable non-thinking.

But when it comes to Lie to Me, I can’t help but think that much of the science is just bastardized for drama and it makes it very difficult for me to watch.  I, for one, would have a very difficult time having my life work dramatized in such a fashion. Perhaps I am too much the scientist.

19 responses to “Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 5 “Grevious Bodily Harm” Comments”

  1. It is hard that the science is getting so lost. I agree.

  2. BenS says:

    Dr. Matsumoto:

    Can you please confirm that there was a typo in this clip, 7 min 4 sec into the episode:

    In the bottom right, it reads: “L13A”

    Shouldn’t that be “L14A”?

  3. Hi Ben,

    Actually, I would code that L13A. One of the few times the code matches the behavior.


  4. BenS says:

    That…makes no sense to me.

    I thought 13 was the Cheek Puffer/Sharp Lip Puller (“Levator anguli oris”/”Caninus”). Seen only in the Chaplin Smile, which very few humans can do, and never appears involuntarily?

    14 was Dimpler (“Buccinator”), appears unilaterally, as here, in Contempt, could indicate frustration at a bad hand.

    12 is the Smile/Lip Puller (“Zygomaticus Major”), could be unilateral from conscious suppression, could indicate Duper’s Delight at the bluff.

    In the video the only movement was in the flesh of skin just surrounding the man’s left mouth corner, no cheek puffing. Beyond the fact that AU13 shouldn’t appear in visible communication except in a rare segment of the population, and intentionally, an AU13 would be meaningless in the context of the poker game clip. I could imagine that being L12 or L14, but L13?

    I am basing my classifications on the 2000 version referred to here:

    Could you explain what I’m getting wrong? Are they working from a different coding system, or is AU13 more common than I believed?

  5. Hi Ben,

    You are correct about AU 13 being cheek puffer/sharp lip puller, although I don’t know if it “never appears involuntarily”.

    You are also correct about AU 14, dimpler and AU12, smile/lip puller

    The reason I thought 13 was that the angle of the lip corner movement was up, as in 13, not in or tightening as in 14, or up diagonally as in 12. Now some of this could be a difference in the technology we are using to view the behavior. I saw the clip downloaded from itunes using quicktime so I could go frame by frame. And when AUs are at A level, these kinds of differences of opinion are common.

    The classifications from this website also need be updated.

    Also, AU13 is not common at all, but the action I saw was not 12 or 14.

    The lip corner went straight up, just like Joker in Batman.

    Hope this helps.


  6. Russ Conte says:

    I just want to say that I agree that the series is getting more and more difficult for me to watch, too. While I don’t expect it to be a science education forum, the science has become so bad, that I’m losing interest big time. The writing has become much worse this season, and many points in the plots (or subplots) are not even realistic, with or without the “science”. I would predict that if the writing continues to slide, that the series will lose viewers, and be cancelled in a season or two. Hopefully someone in charge realizes the error and gets the writers back on track, and builds it on the core strengths, not all the action and adventure that it’s turning into here in the second season.

    There is a lot of excellent potential with the excellent cast and the science. I strongly hope that the writers can change direction, and make Lie to Me the truly great show that it started out to be. It would be great if the series could absolutely demonstrate that top notch TV still exists, can really draw on the intelligence of the viewers, and be nicely profitable for the network because of a large and active viewership – that way everyone wins.

  7. BenS says:

    Thank you so much for clarifying. I have problems coding trace movements, so I am unsurprised I was wrong, I simply proceeded from the faulty assumption that flashes of AU13 were basically impossible.

    Now I wonder what AU13 “means” when it does appear.
    Is it an anger-joy blend, as in an “evil” smile, the enjoyment of doing something bad?
    A playful, pure-joy gesture?
    Or is it an individual-specific gesture that people subconsciously train themselves to perform out of habit, for different reasons?

    I appreciate your patience with what I’m sure seems like an insignificantly minor point to most people.

  8. Ben,

    No one really knows what it means because it hasn’t been studied very much at all.

    In addition, when it appears at such trace levels and only unilaterally, it could mean many things; it could just be a little twitch or it could be a sign of suppressed positive emotion. It could be some sign of contempt that we don’t
    know about. It could have been a technological phantom. Who knows?

    But I am impressed with your level of sophistication in discussing these matters!


  9. Russ and Eyes,

    Yes, hopefully the writers will realize this and make some changes…

  10. Daniel says:

    Dr. Matsumoto, BenS,

    do you know, if there is a mapping from the universal micro-/subtle expressions to the corresponding AUs? (I.e. which are the AUs forming those 7 expressions.)

    (I am just playing around with this whole topic, so sorry, if the question is silly… )


    P.S.: If you count all of us, who became interested in facial expressions just because the series Lie to Me, you shall really pardon a few not so professional episodes… We see the episode then come to your blog! 🙂

  11. Jim McGowan says:

    This shift in focus was stated by the new showrunner, Shawn Ryan, prior to the season being shot. Here’s a link to an article on the blog “The Watcher” with Shawn Ryan’s explanation of how he intended to make over Lie To Me:

    And here’s a quote from Ryan – Note the last sentence in the quote:

    “They were already moving a little bit in a different, in my mind, better direction towards the tail end of the year when I was there, and I think I helped push them a little bit further,” Ryan said. “Before I took the job, I had assurances from the network and the studio that I would be allowed to pursue a more character-driven show than existed last year.”

    “One thing that was attractive was that it didn’t have to be built from the ground up,” he added. “You’ve got a lead who’s one of the premiere actors in the world. You’ve got a great supporting cast. It’s just finding a different way into the stories and a different way out of the stories. That’s an interesting challenge for me.”

    There will be “a couple of element that stretch out,” Ryan said, but for the most part, the show will continue to have a standalone episodes.

    “But having said that, within each standalone episode, we want to really delve into the emotional lives of these characters,” Ryan said. “Last year, a lot of episodes started with ‘What’s the cool science?’ and worked the episodes around that. This year, I think the approach is, ‘What is the great character story we can tell in this episode — the mystery — and we will figure out the science at the end.'”


  12. Kyle says:

    I’m shocked that you show such constant disdain of the show’s science considering Ekman is technical advisor to the show and usually blogs about the actual science used on an episode by episode basis.

    I say shocked because he shows many and specific examples even when they get it wrong or use it to jump to a conclusion too fast in his episode blogs and a lot of what is in the show was published in his book.

    Such as what he says about suicidal and homicidal intent:

    “Torres claims that the student’s body language and face show homicidal intent. I have been working for a number of years to identify when a person is about to physically assault someone. The research is not yet finished, and I don’t know yet if it will succeed. Unfortunately, some people who know my findings are not treating them as preliminary, but are going ahead to train people before the findings are in.”

    My question to you is you and Ekman are clearly not on the same page regarding this show. You like to focus on the “TV” aspect of it, which is fine, however, you give the impression there is little to no science involved and when the science is involved it’s either wrong or incorrect.

    I’m just curious considering how much you’ve collaborated with him in the past. I don’t care who’s right/wrong, I’m just wondering if there is a disagreement in theories, etc.

  13. Daniel,

    In response to your question, of course there are corresponding AUs to the universal expressions as well as micro and subtle expressions.

    In fact, our research has determined an exact mapping for the AUs to these expressions.

    However, this information is highly confidential and a highly guarded secret. Some of the information is in the public domain but the comprehensive list remains something that we guard strictly.


  14. Kyle,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Let me clarify that I do not have disdain about the show’s science, but rather the bastardizing (for lack of a better word) of the science for the sake of drama. I apologize if I gave the message that I am in disdain about the show’s science.

    In regards to your comments about my relationship with Paul Ekman, I worked with him for 28 years. Paul Ekman is a great researcher and has done a lot of great science.


  15. BenS says:


    Dr. Ekman created the blog you cited ( ) specifically so he could correct the exaggerations “Lie to Me” makes for dramatic effect. The exact quote you cited just supports what Dr. Matsumoto wrote: that currently there are no published studies defining expressions for homicidal or suicidal intent.

    I think it’s a legitimate concern that fans of the show are going to start treating single instances of hotspots or red flags that they happen to catch as conclusive, ironclad evidence, without understanding what they signal or mean. Repeatedly Lightman sees one lone Manipulator and decides he’s being lied to; in the real world Manipulators might increase with Detection Apprehension, but also appear for other reasons.

  16. Russ Conte says:

    One of the basic issues I have with the science on the show compared with the actual science is this from Ekman in Telling Lies, p. 189, which shows the actual science,

    “Never reach a final conclusion about whether a suspect is lying or not based solely on your interpretation of behavioral clues to deceit. Behavioral clues to deceit should only serve to alert you to the need for further information and investigation. Behavioral clues, like the polygraph, can never provide absolute evidence.”

    versus all the times on the show when that very fundamental principle is clearly violated. I truly believe that if the writers and producers worked harder to get the science correct, that it would make for a much better show, since the science in this field is of significant interest to so many people. But as they veer more and more into science fiction, (and I perceive that they are), I perceive that as a loss of a significant opportunity to make a much better show. Blogs such as this one and Eyes for Lies, as well as books and articles, are still available for those of us with an interest in the actual science 🙂

  17. Russ Conte says:

    Here’s a link to a video (aprox 10 minutes) where Paul Ekman discusses some of the show, his relationship to it, and much more:

  18. BenS says:

    One of the online sellers of the FACS manual had (down now, thankfully) a page on Physiognomy
    and even a java applet auto-interpreting permanent facial features (not muscle contractions):

    See also

    This is what I meant when I said people take bits of science without understanding and overapply.

  19. Supermouse says:

    The science may be thinly applied, but it got me interested and that’s how I ended up here! I got curious about the ‘television science’ and went searching to find out what the ‘real science’ was. I’d rather work with the real science, with all its careful checking and baselines, than I would with the television science of instant conclusions and questionable ethics. The science may be scantily applied, but it gets people like me reading more. The fiction leads us to the factual. I do have to say that your blog, taking apart the show, and your videos on youtube, have done a lot to get me reading more deeply into the whole field. Lie To Me is entertaining, so are you – but you have added veracity.

    I am watching series 2 episode by episode and I just watched series 1 all through. I know why they’ve gone character-driven and more science-lite. I’ve absorbed the messages from series 1, about natural ‘truth wizards’ and about the idea of micro-expressions, and about the variety of uses for deception-detecting. That got me hooked in.
    I’ve read more about the actual science, and learned a bit about how It Really Works. That hooks me more – the differences between ‘real’ and ‘show’, understandably frustrating to you, help me, the layperson, feel more ‘clued in’ and thus all superior which lights up all my happy geeky snobbery buttons. And now I’ve learned the precepts behind the show, my interest is moving to how the relationships develop between the main characters, with the science that has drawn them together stepping back except as an aide to the story.
    My study of microexpressions will probably continue, since I enjoy behavioural psychology, but it won’t keep me on the show for a third season. The character development probably will though. Cal Lightman, as you’ve pointed out, is *awful* in the way he works, but I could watch him shuffle around kicking over the moral boundaries all day. Watching Ria Torres react with bewilderment and anger to his stunts gives me someone I can identify with, and I like her anyway. You are a great deal of fun to watch when you’re explaining the science, but I couldn’t watch you do that for two series straight, I am sorry.

    I expect that if there’s a brand new development in your field, Lie To Me will very suddenly get more scientific to take advantage of it, but until then, the storytelling aspect has taken over. It’s not actually a bad thing, honestly! People will find the science, and we’re all used to life not being like television. We’re used to spaceships that go woosh in vacuum, bullets that throw people backwards and murder scenes where nobody wears a white coverall or mask.

    You might even get more exposure this way, as and when Mythbusters do a Lie To Me special…

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