The Situationist

The Facial Obviousness of Lying

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 11, 2007

Mark Frank, a professor of social psychology at the University of Buffalo, studies the connection between facial expression and honesty. Frank has identified specific patterns in the tics, furrows, smirks, frowns and displacement actions of the facial muscles when one is speaking and connected those patterns with the speaker’s truthfulness. His research has attracted the attention of law enforcement officials and is now the subject of an NPR article by Dina Temple-Raston. We excerpt portions of it below.

* * *

Frank teaches judges, FBI agents and interrogators, among others, to recognize and accurately read the tiny cues from facial muscles that can happen in the blink of an eye. Frank calls them “hot spots” — emotional cues that might be linked to deceit, or might be clues for further interrogation.

Frank is good at seeing those cues normal people might miss. Eyebrow movement, for example, can be a dead giveaway. Frank says his research has shown that when eyebrows are pulled up and together, they express fear. A muscle in the lower part of the face — something you feel when you stretch your mouth back — is also a hot spot.

“You see that in photos, like when a pickup truck is starting to overturn,” Frank said. “You see fear expression in the driver’s face.”

Paul Moskal, a supervisory special agent with the FBI’s office in Buffalo, went throughmilli-vanilli.jpg Frank’s microexpression training. He said it has made him a better investigator and a better listener.

“We all have a gut feeling that we know when people are lying, but it is very hard for us to articulate why,” Moskal said. “I think it is putting science to what we think is intuitive, and for me the interest is where they cross. It makes you aware of things you weren’t aware of before. “

A Law Enforcement Tool

To a certain extent, Frank is codifying human intuition while he’s also debunking myths about how to read people.

“The literature shows that liars don’t make less eye contact than truth tellers. But you ask anyone on the planet what liars do, the first thing they agree on is liars don’t look you in the eye,” Frank said. “Even just getting over that mythology is a step in the right direction.”

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To read the rest of the article, click here.

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One Response to “The Facial Obviousness of Lying”

  1. [...] the rest of the article, click here. For a related post, see “The Facial Obviousness of Lying.” For a recent post on the interpretation of presidential candidates’ facial [...]

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