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

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