Ever watched the show Lie to Me? This past Thursday, Professor David Aragona, PhD gave a lecture on deception detection. His advisor worked with Dr. Paul Ekman, a contributor to the show about a detective who solves cases based on his ability to interpret microexpressions.
Aragona completed his dissertation on lie detection in applied security contexts. He explained that people are not the best lie detectors because we are looking at the wrong things. For instance, we cannot tell if people are lying because they avoid eye contact or look up. These are culturally learned forms of non-verbal communication and are not helpful when determining if someone is being misleading.
Microexpressions are uncontrollable facial expressions that only last for about 1/25 of a second. Learning the microexpressions of people can help to determine when people are hiding emotions because they are difficult to mask. For instance, you don’t use the same muscles when you are genuinely smiling versus when you are trying to hide your true emotion. How do you know when someone is genuinely smiling? Check out the picture below.
This type of smile indicates happiness. There are other microexpressions including: contempt, anger, surprise, sadness, and fear. The tricky part about this is although we can be trained to see when people are masking emotions, we cannot determine if it is because of a lie. What’s the best way to do that? Catch the person in the act.
Learning to recognize microexpressions can help in a variety of interpersonal settings. By being able to observe microexpressions, you can tell if a person’s expression is genuine or forced. Check out your ability to determine microexpressions here: http://www.cio.com/article/facial-expressions-test. This isn’t the easiest thing to do, but with training people can increase their ability to detect these types of facial movements.