Test How Micro expressions Betray Our Emotions
We can learn to spot lies
I've been watching the new-ish Fox show Lie to Me with real interest: based on the findings of Dr. Paul Ekman (who trained as a clinical psychologist and worked until 2004 at the Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute), the TV show demonstrates how the human face betrays our emotions with microexpressions, even when we are trying to mask our feelings. Ekman started to concentrate specifically on how human faces (regardless of nationality, gender, cultural conditioning, or any other potential influence you can think of) betray our lies.
The TV show uses fictional cases and supporting slow-motion footage or still photographs of famous people showing their real feelings, however briefly. It's all real, and it's all fascinating, so I decided to research the show -- which led me to Dr. Ekman's research -- which led me to a wealth of information on micro-expressions, how to spot them, and what they reveal about us. And we can't hide them.
Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman
The show Lie to Me details the cases of a Dr. Cal Lightman, who heads the private Lightman Group in working with individuals or corporations who simply need to know urgently whether someone is lying to them. Indeed, the real Dr. Paul Ekman directs the Ekman Group, which supplies materials needed to train others in the process of detecting emotions (his website calls it "emotional skills"), and which is most recently "initiating new research relevant to national security and law enforcement."
The implications of this are wide ranging and intriguing: if security forces could be trained reliably in "reading faces" and interpreting certain unconscious human gestures and expressions, their work might well be aided considerably. Likewise, if police investigators could easily recognize when a suspect is lying or telling the truth, cases might well be solved more successfully.
While such research and detection is not yet admissible in court, it may well be in the future; it is clearly relevant information and can help in discovering the truth, building a case against a suspect, deciding whether to trust a key employee or potential colleague -- the applications are endless.
Lie detectors don't work as well as recognition of microexpressions
Many law enforcement agencies rely on polygraph testing to ensure the subject is telling the truth. While it doesn't hold conclusive weight in court, it is considered to be a scientific method that is consistent and reliable.
See for yourself
Ekman's training Demo gives some indication of how it all works. The site used to provide examples of microexpressions common to all humans, no matter the culture (that's the fact that keeps me intrigued) -- but the links seem to be down (perhaps they were getting too many visitors?). Try this link, as it seems to be working again.
The site for the TV show, however, has examples of common microexpressions, as does Hulu; so go ahead and experiment with examining your interlocutors for telltale scorn, disbelief, sadness. . .
And this Hub wouldn't be complete without a few comments on the actors in the TV show, since I'm an avid fan of good acting. The cast of Lie to Me are exceptional--Tim Roth as Cal Lightman presents a character who is energetically obnoxious, confrontational, plainspoken, and occasionally, when able to trust those around him for brief moments, quietly decent and respectful of his peers. He has few of those, however, as he can see everyone else lying to him constantly, 24/7; this skill is not something the character can switch off when he wants to relax.
Roth attacks the character with the same passion that he shows Lightman putting into his work, with all the determination of a small terrier going after a mole, not caring what debris he kicks up in the process of uncovering truth, nor how inconvenient or painful the process might be for the blind, reluctant critters. He makes it this character's mission, his central belief, that truth will ultimately free them all.
The name of Lightman, incidentally, may suggest someone "bringing what is dark to the light," sure -- but it also is reminiscent of an allegorical character in a Medieval Morality play, or more specifically (from Renaissance English drama) -- Lightborn in Marlowe's Edward II -- derived from the name of Lucifer. . . .
So what are these expressions?
Microexpressions are just that: brief, fleeting expressions that we unconsciously use all the time. Dr. Ekman's research indicates that the average person tells up to three lies during any ten-minute period. These could be lies about how we're feeling ("Great! How are you?"), white lies about anything; the lies of social interaction that we find it necessary to tell in our everyday lives. Think about it -- don't believe it? Listen to what you're saying, and compare it to what you're really thinking or feeling ("I enjoyed working with you," "You look great after your surgery!" "I love your new outfit," "looking forward to seeing you").
I finally went to Ekman's training program and paid for the cheapest, most basic training they have ($20). It was interesting, although skimpy on the content; but I did learn to recognize some basic micro-expressions and improved my score from 69% to 85% in a matter of minutes.
Try a new site here: this is selling a training program, too, if you're interested. It's on Humintell, and some of the testimonials are very enthusiastic indeed about the course. I think I'll try this one, too, and let you know.
But if you're like me -- conscious that my perception of reality is changing from moment to moment -- what the truth can actually be becomes more problematic. I often feel that I am telling lies when this happens, although technically, I'm not. (Or am I lying to myself?) I would like to see the show address such a situation; the wonderful complex plots, though, are engaging no matter what the subject may be. Check out the episode on poker players, consummate liars and disemblers -- or the one entitled "Secret Santa," which takes a very incisive look at the truth of why some folk seem to thrive in life-threatening situations. It's a very thought-provoking show, transmitted through an artificial medium, yet capable of capturing moments of naked truth.
- Microexpressions Complicate Face Reading
Reading the face of a person who is trying to conceal fear or other emotions is a tricky business, according to a new Northwestern University study of electrical activity in the brain.Th
- Lying Is Exposed By Micro-expressions We Can\'t Control
When trying to lie your way through any situation, keep a tight rein on your zygo maticus major and your orbicularis oculi. They'll give you away faster than a snitch. So says a University at Buffalo social psychologist, whose revolutionary research
- Micro Expression Training Tool (Matsumoto) Online | Welcome
A new site replacing the METT site; thanks, Leigh, for bringing it to my attention!
- Eyes for Lies Blog: Microexpressions -- Test Yourself
Blog of a Human Lie Detector
- Microexpressions : The Frontal Cortex
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