Have you wondered why, after taking just one look at someone, we sometimes instantly know we don't like him or her? While some explain it with intuition or instinct, there’s something more scientific going on. The truth is written on all of our faces. It’s embedded in the micro-expressions or brief involuntary movements our emotions give off. The popular TV drama Lie to Me, based on the research of Dr. Paul Ekman, combines science and entertainment while demonstrating the human ability to read clues embedded in the human face, body, and voice to expose the truth and lies in criminal investigations.
Tim Roth plays Dr. Cal Lightman as the world’s leading deception expert. After analyzing your face, posture, and voice, the lie you’ve tried so hard to conceal will be ripped to shreds by Lightman before your even finished telling it. The key to Lightman’s success is identifying the seven universal micro-expressions, a tiny facial expression that lasts less than a quarter of a second, that all humans make which are anger, contempt, disgust, fear, sadness, happiness, and surprise.
During the episode “Bullet Bump”, the Lightman group attempts to uncover the truth behind a political cover up. When a campaign staff member admits to hitting and killing a homeless man while driving drunk, it is the complete absence of emotion that immediately convinces Lightman the woman is telling a lie. After a traumatic event, recalling the details of an event will almost always evoke emotions of remorse or sadness. As the memory flashes through your mind, especially when recent or upsetting, it will bring out micro-expressions that often validate what you’re saying. The matter of fact tone and body language suggested the girl was recalling something she knew to be true. However, it was the absence of emotion that showed how distant she was from what she was saying. As she spoke she wasn’t reliving her words and therefore led Lightman to conclude that what the girl believed to be true was in fact false proving that lack of emotion from a normally emotional person can also be evidence of a lie.
Also during the episode “Bullet Bump” was an analysis of the surprise micro-expression. While confronting a man under arrest for the attempted assassination of the governor, Torres removes the gun from the evidence locker and then places it in front of the suspect. At the mere mention of the governor, the would-be assassin flared his nostrils. Nostril dilation is a common micro-expression of anger or anguish, proving the suspect strongly disliked the governor. In regards to the gun however, the look on the suspects face was one of surprise, shown by his raised eyebrows, widened eyes, and open jaw. Because he was unfamiliar with the gun, he did not recognize it and was therefore surprised to see it. The Lightman group then used this evidence to prove that the suspect in custody was not the attempted assassin.
Yet another example of the science...