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Face Reading and Lying

I’m often asked if you can tell from face reading how honest a person is.

Truth is, trying to gauge honesty is a sticky, tricky business that has been studied for centuries. Telling if a person is lying is about body language and micro expressions. Facial analysis is the skill of determining personality traits from the structure and proportions of a face.

I have talked to experts in the field of lie detection and they tell me their methodology is to sit and talk with a person who is suspected of lying (criminal cases) by first working to gain trust so they can get a normal behavioral baseline. Then when they have made them comfortable with the interview process, they will ask the hard questions and apply pressure to see how they respond. Their body language and micro expressions will usually tell the interviewers what they need to know.

But without a baseline, it's nearly impossible to tell.

An interesting study is Paul Ekman's work on micro-expressions. He found that some people are amazingly effective at reading a person's intent through very minute, subtle expressions and body language clues. This is especially true if their childhood was in a highly volatile environment where developing that skill was paramount to remaining alive.

Ekman worked with peers to video tape and study the tiny muscle movements of expression and catalog the meanings. Out of it, he also found clues about lying. So they are there, but few of us are sensitive enough to them to pick up on them, much the less read them. The good news is anyone can be trained in it. Many of this nation's CIA, FBI and Secret Service personnel undergo the Ekman training, seeing it as an essential skill in their line of work.

So what can you glean from face reading in this regards? Not a whole lot. At best, you can see the combinations of traits that would make it easier for someone to lie (watch for a future post on this), but that does not mean they will lie in any given situation, nor do as a habit. Character and ethics have to be considered in making such judgment and we can only know that by seeing character demonstrated over the long haul.