Body Language: Some Body Language Signals are Worthless without a Baseline

Of the many things body language can be used for, more people get excited about using it for catching a “liar” or for detecting deception than anything else. Unfortunately, millions of people leave out some of the most important factors when applying their lie detecting and people reading skills, rendering their assessment useless.

To get an accurate reading, you’d be wise to look to those who work with, and around, deception on a daily basis. Right? People like DEA, FBI, CIA Agents, Judges and Forensic experts like the “CSI” people, right? Wrong.

 An analysis of over 250 studies that dealt with lie detection accuracy indicates that overall, even the people like the CIA Agents would be just as accurate if they flipped a coin. That’s right; accuracy was just a hair better than chance: 53%

Why are most people so inept when it comes to knowing whether someone is lying? And, why are so many people convinced they are so skilled?

I’ll answer the last question, first. Since everyone has a 50/50 chance of being right, it stands to reason, that just like on the casino floor in Vegas, people with no skill or training whatsoever, are going to hit a “hot streak” of lucky guesses. After they’ve had two or three guesses turn out to be correct, they erroneously begin to think they have some genetic advantage as a human lie detector. Some people do, but this is oh so rare. Very rare!

Now, to answer the “why are most people so inept when it comes to knowing whether someone is lying?” question. One reason is the lack of a baseline.

 For almost every celebrity I am asked to analyze by the media and television networks, I have already analyzed countless hours of that particular celebrities body language and non-verbal communication. In doing so, I have a baseline for that person that I can use when watching them in other situations. (All of the other top body language experts do this as well.)

When I have not had a chance to establish a baseline, I scramble, as quickly as possible, to take in as much footage of that person as I can, before watching a particular clip that I am being asked to comment on. With this baseline in place, I can analyze their actions in a specific context with far more accuracy.

 One example of how this lack of baseline can lead to very inaccurate assessments would be with John McCain. While it’s true that one sign of deception is a higher than normal blink rate, we first have to know what “normal” is for any given person. McCain blinks far more than the average person. It would be easy for someone to watch him, note how rapidly he was blinking, and then jump to the conclusion “he’s lying!”

 McCain would almost certainly blink even more rapidly, than he already does, if he was lying, but his already amplified blink rate could cause someone without a baseline to make a huge blunder.

 Once you know his baseline on eye blinks for topics on which he is answering truthfully, it is easy to compare that to the number of blinks per minute when you think he is lying. Remember, when it comes to detecting deception, most people will be just about as accurate, if they reach into their pocket, pull out a coin, and flip it in the air.

 © Copyright 2010-Vincent Harris-All Rights Reserved.

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