Looking for Hot Spots

So you want to catch a liar in the act. What is the first thing you should look for? The answer are what researchers call “hot spots”.

As you may know already, hot spots are inconsistencies between what people say and what their nonverbals are saying.

For example, if you ask a person how they like your dress and they say “I love it!” but they flash a sign of disgust, this would be a hot spot. What they said and what their body said are inconsistent with each other.

Its important to understand that hot spots always a sign that someone is lying, but often times are situations where there is an underlying or hidden message.

If you see a hot spot and you feel the situation is necessary, you should ask more questions, or find out why that individual has hidden feelings about that topic. Don’t jump to the conclusion that they are automatically lying.

We’ve compiled a couple videos for you to see if you can see any hot spots:  micros, gestures or other nonverbal behavior that may contradict their verbal statements.

The videos are of various individuals who were questioned about their honesty at one time or another.

The first video is of Scott Peterson on the disappearance of his wife Laci. The second video is of the Heene Family who were accused of lying about their son being in their homemade balloon. The final video is of the Salahi couple, who were accused of crashing the white house party a few months ago.

Comment and let us know what you think!

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16 responses to “Looking for Hot Spots”

  1. Ian Trudel says:

    All right, I have tried to watch the videos using IE and it did work. It’s a no go with Firefox 3.5.7 here. We love technologies, don’t we? =)

  2. Hi Ian, Sorry for the inconvenience. We played the videos on Firefox Version 3.0.17 and it worked okay. Glad to hear you were able to play them. Did you catch anything?

  3. I don’t feel right commenting on the first two, because I am aware of those stories. The Salahi’s crashing the whitehouse party I was not aware of and I do not know the outcome.
    Tareq seems to have a increased blink rate when asked about crashing the party, compared to when he was asked if he was being paid by the news (first question). If I assume the news people are not lying and use that as a baseline for his blink rate that is interesting.
    Michaele seems to be holding back a smirk, as if she knows she is fooling people and proud of it.

  4. BenS says:

    These are the hardest situations for me, since 1) because the danger of truthfully being disbelieved is palpable, the most common hotspots–indicators of Fear–do not distinguish between Deception and Honesty and 2) each speaker has had time to rehearse. All of them exhibit lots of mouth control, frozen postures with pacifying manipulators on the knees, but in context I don’t consider those hotspots.

    Peterson nods as he says “…no, no I did not. It was a few days after that I…” He also strikes me as over-rehearsed, like he’s adopting the helpful-nice-guy attitude criminals usually use when they try to talk themselves out of trouble. His head doesn’t move, he’s quiet and muted, and rather than accuse his girlfriend of lying or being mistaken, he simply repeats his version of events twice, then changes the subject.

    In the Heene video, it’s interesting that both the boy and the mother’s voices rise in pitch and amplitude specifically when they quote one of the Heene children in the past (“He was like this, ‘I’m gonna go sneak inside!’ ” & “He told me, ‘he’s inside!’ ” ). When someone recalls past quotes, they generally remember and express the emotion that quote caused THEM to feel at the time, but the liar thinks “oh, HAD he said that, he WOULD have been excited, so I should SOUND excited when I quote him.”
    Richard Heene’s statement “I just picture little Falcon inside being frightened and cold…” is a hotspot for me. It’s clear from the frozen postures, mouth controls and awkward hand illustrators (always with the left hand) that he’s well rehearsed, and controlling his fear. And then he suddenly veers into a vocal tone of Sadness? Without any postural changes? And without any shame/embarrassment head movements when he “catches” himself? Also, the statement is in the present tense. If honest, “I WAS so terrified” would have been more likely because it would have been the stronger emotion. Liars are more likely to speak in the present tense because they are making the lie up as they go.
    And the children…toddlers in an ordinary household would rarely sit that still when this much attention is paid to them. Something was going on there.
    Also, Richard Heene’s focus on his pain is inapposite, not just with his body language, but the situation. There’s no gratitude for his son being fine until he’s specifically prompted, just pandering for the sake of building up pity and attention. After all the expense, he doesn’t thank the public until specifically prompted at the very end.
    Falcon’s answer to who he saw first when he emerged is probably the only honest statement made by the Heene family; it’s the only time he makes eye contact with the camera and speaks naturally.
    Richard Heene does a liplick to punctuate “It was a huge, huge sigh of relief” which strikes me as a gesture-of-no-confidence given the timing.
    When he says “we’re going to sit down and discuss things like hiding places” there’s an M.E. of the risorius, a fear signal. I think he realized he had just made a freudian slip.
    When the boys are asked “No more secrets?” look at the center child: a quick head shake as he says “Yeah” (verbal response time is faster than with honest reponses) followed by an extreme Fear expression…3 dead giveaways in less than a second that there’s still a big secret they all know.
    Falcon’s statement about being the most famous boy in America (“it felt really good”) sounds bizarre, unless you consider that he’s been taught–by his parents–that fame is a desirable goal. His face does not look happy, nor does he make eye contact or use any body postures of engagement when he says this.
    When Falcon says “Thank you” to the public at the very end, his eyes look up and roll left and right, back and forth. I can’t tell if that’s a Fear gesture or if he’s looking to his parents for confirmation.

    Mrs. Salahi’s statement “with time everything will be heard” strikes me as an obvious hotspot. An honest person complaining about having her name dragged through the mud doesn’t say “just wait and I’ll explain everything sometime later” she says “I’m innocent BECAUSE…” Why else give an interview (unless you just want attention)? She also looks like she’s controlling a smile through most of the interview.
    Head shakes when Mr. Salahi says “No question, unfortunately we’ve been mischaracterized.” He also blinks alot when nervous.
    Mrs. Salahi says “We were invited, and there isn’t anyone who would have the audacity…” etc. Her voice rises in pitch a little, but more tellingly is the appeal to general morality. Liars appeal to morality (i.e. “I’m not the kind of person who would…”), honest people make more direct statements (“I didn’t do it.”). She does both, but her head shakes during that speech. Her head also shakes on “we respect everything they do.”
    When asked about Michelle Jones’ claims that they were not invited–the most critical question of the interview–they remain frozen, then dodge the question.
    The response to the question about the previous incident where they were escorted off premises is odd: if this was the “first time” they’d heard the accusation, there should be some surprise or confusion; instead the answer is well-rehearsed.

  5. Sander Budding says:

    Scott Peterson shows one micro-expression of disbelief I think. But it’s on a moment he has doubt of something. What’s the difference between (mini)micro-expression of disbelief and sadness? And he shows twice a (mini)micro-expression smile of hapiness. Not showing much illustrators, and I think he looks confident, than usually they show more illustrators. And nowadays I finds it sometimes hard to know if it is a mini-expression, micro-expression or macro-expression (I know it’s time that makes the difference).

  6. Sander Budding says:

    Heen Family, Just watched the man mostly and he shows a lot of micro-expressions or subtle micro-expression of happiness and contempt. Doesn’t seem to stop. 🙂 No realible signs of sadness in the forehead. Hand shrug (Lie to me) I think. Sometimes I’m seeing things and I don’t know how to interpret something. Like, is someone emphasing something or is he shaking no. And the child put his hand on his mouth. It sometimes is hard to see, because the camera is far away, and the video blurry.

  7. Sander Budding says:

    The woman does shoulder shrug on times she says she convinced about something. Nods yes on a question that no one would dare to do something like that. The guy blinks a lot an closes his mouth not on a normal. Again I see something but I don’t exactly know how to interpret his mouth moves. Also he shows some sign of fear, because his mouth widened sometimes. And decrease of illustrators But when can you say that the mouth becomes more wide because of the words they speak and when is it because of fear? What’s the difference?

  8. Markus says:

    Lookin at Scott Petersen i saw a mouth shrug when asked if he called her on the 24th. He says no “No, not on the 24 (mouth shrug) i was a few days after”. He also slightly shakes his head when asked if he told her if he was with his parents in Maine. I dont know this story so i dont know if he was in Maine or if he said he was for somekind of albi. I have read a little about Desmond Morris, He talks about “intention movment”. Looking at the way Scott sits, when the camera is zoomed out, he looks like someone who is about to stand up and leave. Or in this situation someone who would like to leave. He seems uncomfortable. But i dont know if im right. it would be fun if later you would point out the hot spots.

  9. Markus says:

    The first thing in the “White house crashers” video was the answear to the “who invited you” question at about 2:53. He answears that they are working close with the secret service and the internal investgation and something about working out the timelines.That is not the answear to “who invited you”. The answear to the “do you dissagree with the Micelle Jones statment” is also evasive and indirect. I dont know if that question was unexpected. To me it seems that it caused an change in Tareqs speech pattern. The aums and the eehh seem to increase wich may be a sign if cognitive overload coming up with an answear.

  10. Ian Trudel says:

    Admin, I have caught few things indeed. Here are few that I thought was interesting to say, adding to what has already been said. By the way, the input box (textarea) to write a comment on your blog is way too narrow. I’d like to recommend you to make it wider.

    BenS lays it out for us when he says that Scott Peterson had much time to rehearse his answers. His body language is very controlled, an obvious attempt to conceal his true feelings but not necessarily a deceptive behaviour per se. The reporter clearly stated that his answers did feel scripted. However, the interview segment is not about the central issue (e.g. killing his wife and unborn child).

    The most interesting part to me is what he says. Peterson said “Gloria, I am not going to… waste… the little media time we have […]”, which is very strange since reporters are usually deciding what is interesting to know about the person they are interviewing; and not the other way around. It seems to me that Peterson had his own agenda and he did not want to waste the little time he had with the media on questions that are unfit to his agenda.

    The Heene family is craving for attention. They are featured twice on the television programme “Wife Swap”. The Heene family balloon adventure has been discussed on http://eyesforlies.blogspot.com/ . That’s one of the rare case Eyes actually missed. Let’s not worry too much about it, her blog is fantastic. =)

    One interesting point about children. Both Mayumi and Richard Heene wrap a child around one of their arm. Mayumi even put her hand on the shoulder of Bradford when he is questioned. Wrapping a child in one’s arm(s) can be a comforting gesture but it can be also a form control. In this specific case, I am inclined to believed that both parents try to keep control over the children by touching them and thus remind them who are the authority. The reminder is a powerful incentive to the children with the message “Watch what you’re saying […]”.

    The Salahi story is not especially thrilling but it’s a bit strange. They are sure smiling a lot for people in troubles. As much as they are deflecting questions. The interview is produced in such way that it frequently alternates between split and full screen, which makes it more difficult to analyze Salahi couple. Few points on the fly…

    At 02:39, Michaela Salahi has her left upper lid closing down to mid-eye (pupil) when she says “There isn’t anyone that would have the audacity or… [2:39] the poor behaviour to do that […]”. I am not sure that it would be identified as AU46 (Wink) since it seems to be mostly the upper lid closing. The theory says that when the left eye appears bigger, the person unconsciously try to let as much emotions in as possible. Likewise, when the left eye appears smaller, a person shut himself or herself emotionally. The left eye may appear bigger or smaller when a person is highly emotional about something; whereas the right eye would be highly rational.

    At 02:53, Michaela Salahi goes on and then says “[…] certainly not us.” She implies here that they would not have the audacity or the poor behaviour to do that. The specific time marker reveals a lower lip pushes in a pout, a sign of sadness or embarrassment.

    Oh! I have noticed an increasing number of visitors on my blog coming from people reading here. I have few articles on body language and deception, more to come. I might as well direct you to an interesting article. http://mecenia.blogspot.com/2010/01/around-world-with-papuans.html


  11. BenS says:


    Regarding the Salahi eye movement at [2:39], I think you are referring to L43 Upper Lid Droop, although it appears to me that the movement is mostly an L7. I think it’s a focusing gesture, an indicator of emphasis or cognitive processing, but not necessarily deception.
    What exactly is the “theory” about left side related to emotions while the right side is related to rationality? There’s a 1985 article by Hager and Ekman called “The Asymmetry of Facial Actions is Inconsistent with Models of Hemispheric Specialization” that demonstrates that those kind of overarching claims–about which brain hemisphere affects which side of the face–fail to explain, model or predict the different nerve pathways in the face or their effects.

  12. Ian Trudel says:


    I would go with L43 as you have suggested since it seems to fit better. L7 doesn’t to be appropriate because there is no real tightening (and notice how little it is with the lower lid). The upper lid really droops in a relaxed manner. Oh! I wish we could download this video and watch in slow motion. Perhaps, Dr. Matsumoto could help us with the scoring? That would be great!

    The Salahi are certainly not straight talkers, their demeanour is unfit and they deflect a lot. I did not write that Michaela was deceptive but rather emotional. Emphasis or cognitive processing would probably be bilateral. Granted that we have no baseline and this is an unusual eye movement, I would investigate and ask more questions to know whether or not there’s something into it. Nevertheless, they both have a questionable and possibly deceptive behaviour.

    I understand that my statement in regard to hemispheric specialization may not be fit for microexpressions and most likely a rushed judgement based on non-verbal behaviour theory and my existing experience that is unspecific to microexpressions. The overall elements in this particular segment made a strong impression on me in this regard, which lead me to this conclusion. I would not necessarily make the same conclusion with this microexpression in another situation.

    The theory can be found in a French book on non-verbal communication “La Synergologie” written by Philippe Turchet, a popular figure in the field in French speaking countries. He has listed various reference papers in his book. I’ve read the first edition back in 2000. The newest edition can be found at: http://www.amazon.fr/Synergologie-Philippe-Turchet/dp/2761919033/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263624728&sr=8-3

    Nothing better than an example to express the idea behind the theory. Watch the following video with Jessica Del Rocco. Her left eye looks bigger than her right one around 2:33 and onward. This is very interesting to watch. She is recalling past events that were difficult emotionally.


    The subject was metioned on EyesForLies blog.

    My observations during the last 10 years corroborate what I have read 10 years ago in Turchet’s book. I cannot say for sure that it applies to microexpressions or to this specific segment with Michaela Salahi. I would be glad to read an alternative explanation, or even a different thought. This expression got to mean something!

    Thanks, BenS. I will search and read the article you have suggested.


  13. J.G. says:

    I think the funniest part of the Scott Peterson interview

    is the obvious scepticism of the interviewer.

    1)”Sure.”(um,verbal clue in the way he said it.)
    2)0:29 contempt,looks down on interviever,eyebrow raised

    (when saying,”Well, take a look at my hand” He said it with

    such smugness.. bleh. Even the way he described his

    knuckles,he was like “Just TRY to challenge me, I dare you.

    I have my facts worked out.)
    3)slow blinking(relief?)
    4)Smirking when interviewer said “You continued to romance

    this girl?”,his immediate response was “No.”*smirks*,

    almost interrupting,as if he was waiting for her to ask the

    5)”..And then even after Lacy went missing, you continued

    to romance this girl?”*purses lips in anger* “No..”(almost

    interrupting again,swallowing

    6)”She claims that you called her on the 24th-“*Scott

    flashes fear response*
    7) “On the 24th,” “No,” “December 24th?” *his makes a

    stomach or something noise,lol*
    8)”No I believe it was was probably, uh… It was a few

    days after.”*out of place ‘confidence’. He just doesn’t

    seem upset :\

    9)”Okay,Uh, no,this is..” *smirks,looks down*
    10)”I called her and informed her of Lacy’s

    disappearance.”*wowHUGEsmirkmixedwithannoyance* His one

    raised eyebrow,corners of his mouth.. wrinkles on forhead

    above said eyebrow, no remorse. It’s like a challenge to

    11)”No,no, I did not.” Irritation,impatience.. but he

    thinks he’s in control.
    12)”If was a few days after that I..” almost looks like a

    flash of remorse. Maybe insecurity
    13)”She claims you called her on the 24th and..” *super


  14. Ray says:

    1st vid
    At 1.24 his face is smiling
    this guy knows what happened

    2nd vid
    Parents legs are shaking nervously
    Father says “uhh” 8 times in hist first statement.
    Father “who do you call when something like that happens”?…the police perhaps?
    Reporter says “you thought you lost your son”? Father “yeah yeah yeah” but his tone says…uhm…i couldnt care less.
    mother says “i dont know how to describe”…lieing

    Can’t seem to watch the 3rd vid

  15. Ray says:

    3rd Vid
    Couple were asked a total of 12 questions and avoided answering 2 of the 12 that was given to them…here is where im confused…if they were invited and all that…why answer 10 of the 12 questions and not all of them?

  16. Gabriel says:

    the salahis couple, so many lies in one video.. i feel like this speech was prepared in details by the wife, constantly adding details that the husband forgot to say.. no body language under the head at all, wich means they’are nervous and hiding something.. i saw shame on the husband’s face and nervosity multiple times on miss salahi, i dont even talk about the constant fear and anxious looks they shared, well, she mostly sahred. right after he hear about the ’emails, michaele is biting her lips, and looking up, nervosityt and fear, they both kept their breaths and mister salahis started flashing his eyes on a much more often basis. they keep holding hands without moving from begining to end to show they are united but it only show stress, and vulnerability. Also he started to stutter much more frequently wich i think means he doestn believe at all what he say or that hes lost in his lies. added to that the comments of michaele ‘i was going to say that’ like that speech is pure improvisation. or to give some confidence to Taleqh. about the second event that they got accused of not being invited, he carefully choose his words, acting totally different. Now thats improvisation, but he keep addind adjectives to strenghten his words. Why is she always afraid of talking, looking at her husband by hope he will say whatever she think, before her.

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