Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 8 “Secret Santa” Comments

tim-roth-lie-to-me white-spaceWith Cal Lightman in Afghanistan, it’s a great time to think about the science, and what has been validated scientifically and not.

In reality, did you know that while there is a lot of data demonstrating the universality of facial expressions of emotion, there is no study published yet (at least that I know of) that demonstrates the existence of microexpressions in people of different cultures? And there is no study yet that demonstrates that microexpressions are produced when people of different cultures are lying. (I know that doesn’t really affect the show, because Lightman interrogated an American in Afghanistan, not Afghans. But the show prompted me to reflect on what has and has not been empirically demonstrated.)

That having been said, however, I would like to clarify that by noting that that kind of data doesn’t exist because I don’t know of anyone who has tried to test the theory of microexpressions and deception cross-culturally.

In my experience, I have every reason to believe that they act the same way across cultures, and I would bet not only that microexpressions occur all around the world, but also play the same role during deception.

It would also be different if researchers had tried to test it and produced negative results. But that’s not the case. The data does’t exist because it hasn’t been tested. This indeed is an area that is ripe for further scientific exploration.

These issues are of great importance when we consider efforts to apply microexpressions, and the larger field of behavioral analysis, to the understanding of people of different cultures. Seems to me we sorely need such research to occur.

Oh and by the way, there is no data on an expression of hope either.

5 responses to “Lie to Me Season 2 Episode 8 “Secret Santa” Comments”

  1. BenS says:

    Hope = 1+5+26+63 (Surprise-Sadness blend)? Probably also general muscular hypotonicity, faster heartrate, and a higher pitch, lower amplitude voice?

    Just guessing.

  2. Markus says:

    Seems unlikely to me that microexpression would differ between cultures. I understand how it might be important from the sake of science. Microexpression, if i understand it right, are signs of concealed emotion and there are thees seven facial-expressions wich have scientific support for being universal. Why would microexpression of thees expression not be universal and shown on faces across all cultures? To me it seems like they are linked. If i understand it right, and they are linked. Then if microexpression differ between cultures then would`nt that mean that thees seven facialexpression arent universal either? Some cultures, for exampel Japan, where its important not to show strong emotion in presence of authority or lose control and get angry. They might, because of their culture, be better to control their emotions and therefore show fewer microexpressions.

  3. Per says:

    If sadness would be a part of Hope it would to me be an emotion fading, and not an indication of hope. Meaning going away from sadness. It is not my experience that people are sad about having hope. But rather sad or people in disper having hope and sadness and disper fading out of their system.

    what do you say David ?

  4. Dear Ben and Per,

    Sorry for the late reply, been very busy.

    In regards to the expression of hope, to my knowledge I have never seen a study that has demonstrated what the facial expression of hope is. Part of the problem is defining exactly what it is, and then creating the experimental manipulation to create it.

    As you guys are talking about, it’s difficult to define, much less operationalize in research.

    In fact I don’t think there’s much empirical work done on hope. You might want to check the work of professor David Feldman at Santa Clara University.


  5. Dear Markus,

    I agree it is logical that microexpressions should occur universally. But whether they occur in the same ways in deception situations across cultures
    is a big leap of faith. Who knows how that works?

    It could be that in cultures with different rules of expression regulation that micros do occur, but occur for different reasons. Or that different micros occur in different cultures, even for the same kind of lie. I doubt it, but these are at least theoretically possibilities that future research needs to examine.


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