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Wednesday, July 20, 2011


UB researcher Mark Frank, PhD, studies microexpressions that may indicate a person is being deceptive.

Be Still My Eyebrows: Liars Under Scrutiny Can't Completely Suppress Facial Expressions, Researchers Say

ScienceDaily (July 18, 2011) — Mark Frank has spent two decades studying the faces of people lying when in high-stakes situations and has good news for security experts.

"Executing Facial Control During Deception Situations," a new study he co-authored with former graduate student Carolyn M. Hurley, PhD, reports that although liars can reduce facial actions when under scrutiny, they can't suppress them all.
Frank, PhD, a professor of communication at the University at Buffalo, supervised and co-wrote the study with lead author Hurley, now a research scientist at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
Published earlier this year in theJournal of Nonverbal Behavior, the study examined whether subjects could suppress facial actions like eyebrow movements or smiles on command while under scrutiny by a lie catcher.
It turns out subjects could to a degree, but not completely and not always.
The results are derived from frame-by-frame coding of facial movements filmed during an interrogation in which participants, some lying, some telling the truth, were asked to suppress specific parts of facial expressions. Hurley and Frank found that these actions can be reduced, but not eliminated, and that instructions to the subjects to suppress one element of expression resulted in reduction of all facial movement, regardless of their implications for veracity.
Despite these findings, the majority of the 60 study participants reported believing that they had controlled all facial movement and had remained "poker faced" during the interview/interrogation.
"Behavioral countermeasures," says Frank, "are the strategies engaged by liars to deliberately control face or body behavior to fool lie catchers. Until this study, research had not shown whether or not liars could suppress elements of their facial expression as a countermeasure.
"As a security strategy," he says, "there is great significance in observing and interpreting nonverbal behavior during an investigative interview, especially when the interviewee is trying to suppress certain expressions."
Hurley and Frank say prior research in Ironic Process Theory (IPT) has shown that when individuals are required to monitor their thought patterns so as to suppress a thought or image, the process places that thought or image into their monitoring memory, enabling it to intrude more frequently into their regular memory.
Hurley and Frank say this is even more likely to occur when one is telling a lie because, as research has shown, lying raises the cognitive load and reduces the ability to successfully and naturally engage in interaction with others.
The study involved 33 female and 27 male undergraduate subjects who were introduced into a crime scenario in which they were randomly assigned to either take (lie) or not take (tell the truth) a pair of movie tickets from an envelope.
They were then interviewed about the theft of the tickets by an experienced but neutral interrogator blind to the experimental conditions. Participants were told they would be rewarded if they convinced the interrogator of their honesty and punished if not. All denied taking the tickets.
Prior to the interview some subjects were specifically instructed to suppress upper face activity (manifested through eyebrow-raising actions) and lower face activity (manifested through smiling).
"Although these facial movements are not necessarily guaranteed signs of deception," says Frank, "expression suppression -- regardless of its validity as a clue to deception -- is clearly one of the more popular strategies used by liars to fool others. What we didn't know was how well individuals can do this when they are lying or when they are telling the truth.
"Based on the research literature on the nature of facial expressions of emotion, the neuroanatomy of the face, emotional suppression research and IPT research," he says, "we correctly predicted that in interrogations in which deception is a possibility, individuals would be able to significantly reduce their rate and intensity of smiling and brow movements when requested to do so, but would be able to do so to a lesser degree when telling a lie.
"And, since the lower face (and smile in particular) is easier to control than the upper face, we predicted that our subjects would more greatly reduce their rate of smiling, compared to their rate of brow movement, when requested to suppress these actions," he says, "and that turned out to be the case as well. We can reduce facial movements when trying to suppress them but we can't eliminate them completely.
"Whether we are dealing with highly skilled and motivated liars who have practiced their nonverbal expression in high-stakes scenarios, or untrained individuals who learn from a television program about a particular brow or lip movement that is allegedly a telltale sign of deception," Frank says, "the findings of this study have important implications for security settings."
Frank is a social psychologist who conducts research on human non-verbal communication -- particularly micro-expressions -- focused on truth-telling. He founded the Communication Science Center at UB in 2005 and his work, funded through major foundations, is recognized and employed by defense, science and security agencies throughout the world

37 comments:

  1. Two decades studying? I hope he remembers something when he dies.

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  2. throughout reading this entire thing, i noticed every movement of my eyebrows. very distracting.

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  3. It's always interesting to hear how body language is an important part of human communication.

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  4. I had already read something along those lines, its incredible how advanced that is. I think i heard that lately it started to be used in the courtroom to evaluate if the accused person or people testifying are telling the truth or not.
    Great article

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  5. interesting stuff. I can smell a liar....just kidding

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  6. i like these kind of experiments, but I think no big news in this one... but interesting to read!!!

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  7. Interesting, I wonder if someone will learn techniques to beat these detection methods?

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  8. Interesting article. I think people look slightly to left if they are lying, to the right if they are telling the truth. To the left they are accessing the creative part of the brain, to the right they are retrieving stored information.

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  9. This is really interesting stuff. And probably way more useful than lie detectors.

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  10. I think the inability to lie perfectly is a good thing about humans.

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  11. checkout body language, it is full of information too, when someone is incomoded, liking you, bored, tired, interested in you, etc, etc

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  12. My poker face is as solid as they come... these techniques don't work on me :P

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  13. Understanding non-verbal communication is KEY to navigating the world successfully. It is amazing how much a simple eye movement can belie.

    Great info!

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  14. So if they didn't convince the interrogator they were punished, that's weird.

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  15. House says that everybody lies and I agree with him :) Nice post mate, and I'm not lying now. Keep it up!

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  16. I can spot a liar from a mile away lol ... I like your blog btw

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  17. interesting post, non-verbal communication always fascinate me

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  18. Shit. So they CAN read my Poker face. Gaga owes me big time then.

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  19. thats no news to me. i can always tell when people are lying.

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  20. thats actually kinda scary to think that computers will recognize your face in public

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  21. Interesting. Thanks for sharing

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  22. I find this very true. I can always tell when people are lying to me. They give themselves away without even realizing it!

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  23. coll stuff in here! i'll be following and supporting

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  24. yes theres a tv show about this called 'Lie to Me'. it's very fascinating!

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  25. I say is next to impossible to make a perfect lie because of our faces. I can't say a lie that well without laughing or looking away from the eyes of the person.

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  26. Great post and a nice blog, enjoyed earlier articles! +following for future posts keep up the good work!

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  27. Interesting to know about expressions and lying, thanks!

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  28. ...Did you just copy an article word for word? You do know that they can kill your account and even press criminal charges against that?

    You didn't even comment it. Good grief.

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  29. lol this cant be good now if they can tell when your lying

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  30. i should listen to him, and you!

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  31. I'm sure there's some people that can get away with it if they practice it to perfection.

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  32. I'm sure there's some people that can get away with it if they practice it to perfection.

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  33. Pretty sure they made a tv show about this, called 'Lie to Me'
    I love that show, just never get the time to watch it

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  34. Guess I'll just have to tell the truth then.
    Great post!

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  35. Course you eyebrows! Always ratting me out to the man! Interesting article though. Thanks for the information.

    Check me out at:
    http://brassdragons.blogspot.com/

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