Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Body Language vs Micro-Expressions

Via Psychology Today's SpyCatcher Blog -

Thoughtful questions often prompt thoughtful analysis and recently a series of questions from a reader regarding "micro-expressions" had such an effect on me. His questions made me stop and think about how the public perceives "micro expressions" and their significance in our overall understanding of body language, and more importantly, their relevance in detecting deception.

By now most people have heard of "micro-expressions" as a result of the show Lie to Me, or because the term has been popularized by the media. In fact, I routinely run into people who say they have taken courses on "micro-expressions" and have been "certified" or who want to become experts on "micro-expressions." (It reminds me of when students first wanted to be "criminal profilers" and then they wanted to be "CSI agents," just like on TV, now I guess it is "micro-expression experts") That's fine I say, but what about the rest of the body? And that is when I hear silence. After all, the rest of the body is transmitting information about thoughts, desires, fears, emotions, and intentions with far more regularity. If someone ventilates their shirt or hides their thumbs while being asked questions, you should know what that means beyond it's hot and they don't know what to do with their hands (it means: issues, discomfort, insecurities) because there may be no "micro-expressions" to help you at all.



After studying nonverbals for over 40 years, I think it is wiser to understand what all of the body communicates, not just the face, or just "micro-expressions." Especially knowing that the feet are more accurate than the face in revealing sentiments and intentions and that all of our body is constantly transmitting vital information (Navarro 2008).

f you truly want to learn about body language and nonverbal communications and go beyond the tripe usually served on television, give yourself a treat and read Desmond Morris' trilogy on nonverbals (Manwatching, Bodywatching, Peoplewatching). Morris looks at humans with the critical eye of a scientist discovering a new species and explains why we do the things we do. He is an authority without equal when it comes to nonverbal communications and as a zoologist and anthropologist, will open your eyes as no other author or expert can, with perhaps the exception of Charles Darwin, who started it all one day while watching orangutans in the London zoo.

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