Street Cop Training

June 16, 2022

Body Language Clues of Deceit

When reading body language, we want to analyze a person’s baseline and take things into context. A person’s baseline behavior is how they are acting in a given set of circumstances before a stimulus is introduced. Your baseline behavior will be different when you are at home alone compared to being out at a restaurant with people all around you.

Verbal words can have different meanings. If you hear the word “Pitcher” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the container that you would use to pour out a drink? Or maybe you think of the baseball or softball player that throws the ball attempting to strike out a batter. If you were on a baseball field and someone said they wanted to be the pitcher you wouldn’t assume they wanted to become the Kool-aid man that knocked down walls in commercials back in the day. Same if you were in a kitchen and someone asked if you knew what cabinet the pitcher was in. You wouldn’t then be thinking about a person dressed in a uniform holding a ball and glove crouched down inside a kitchen cabinet.

Verbal words need to be taken into context and non-verbal communication is the same. If someone is standing outside in a t-shit in 5-degree weather and they fold their arms in front of their chest it is most likely not a power pose, a soothing self-hug, or that they are insecure. Instead, it’s more plausible that the person is trying to keep body heat in to keep themselves warm.

Baseline and context are the foundation of reading body language especially when using it to assist in detecting deception. Notice I use the word “assist.” This is because there is no A + B = C when it comes to detecting deception. At the end of the day, you’re looking for verifiable facts and confessions. Body language is a tool that can be used the same as statement analysis and interviewing themes. You are looking for changes in baseline that don’t make sense. You bring up someone’s name and they grasp their neck each time it is brought up, or you ask a question and someone rapidly inhales from their nose before answering. Neither movement means someone is lying, however, it is a possible red flag and I want to ask more questions about the subject.

I’m often asked “What are some movements that mean someone is lying?” The short answer is that there are no specific movements. There are no reliable body language clues to deceit. It can’t be said that a person lied when they shrugged their shoulders when they said they enjoyed spending time with you. The shoulder shrug, often representing uncertainty, could have occurred because they are unsure why you asked them if they enjoyed spending time with you. Or maybe they were thinking about something else when the movement occurred. It could also be that the shoulders were raised in excitement because they are that enthusiastic about your time spent together.

Nothing in body language is 100% and the idea that there are certain movements that specifically reveal a lie is shenanigans. Observing body language is a tool you can use to assist in finding the truth – the verifiable facts or confessions. Unfortunately, there are no behaviors only specific to lying, as all body language movements can occur for different reasons. You need to take note of a person’s baseline, take context into account, and look for changes in baseline to know when to ask more questions and search for more verifiable facts. Body language is an excellent tool to assist in detecting deception but it is not a cure-all. 

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