“You think you’re hiding it, but for a split second it’s written all over your face.”
We hide our emotions from others on a daily basis, and most of the time we succeed. Until one day we meet someone who is trained to recognise the clues that we unconsciously let out at every moment of our day, clues as obvious as a huge flashing neon light.
Diego Ingrassia is the Italian partner of Paul Ekman International, an organisation founded with the aim of disseminating scientific methodologies that allow us to read facial expressions and body language in order to know the emotions that our interlocutor really feels.
The company, based in Milan, is based on the work of Paul Ekman, the famous ‘profiler‘ who inspired the well-known television series ‘Lie to Me.
In the last 30 years, Ekman has complemented his early research on emotions and their expression with in-depth studies on lying, with the aim of identifying the signals transmitted by our bodies and uncovering our interlocutor’s lies.
Paul Ekman International has worked with bodies such as the British and US secret services and police, and today is a reference point for all professionals involved in behavioural analysis and emotional intelligence.
Diego Ingrassia was recently interviewed by Viviana Guglielmi on Telelombardia where he stated that ‘There is no such thing as Pinocchio’s nose. There is no such thing as lying per se. There are channels through which one can detect the emotions and credibility of the interlocutor.
“If someone wants to hide something, they will try to suppress the expression on their face, to disguise it, but they will not be able to prevent it from appearing for a fraction of a second,” Diego Ingrassia continues, illustrating the micro-expressions and involuntary signals that our body and voice transmit.
There are five main observation channels on which behavioural analyses are based. Firstly, many lies can be read from facial expressions. Joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, contempt and surprise appear involuntarily on our face in less than 2 tenths of a second. Secondly, body language can give interesting signals, although it is necessary to know which ones are influenced by one’s culture.
Another important aspect concerns the analysis of the words chosen by the interlocutor to answer questions. Verbal style, e.g. the details in our statements, the quality of their flow and their structure, can be used to determine whether the episode corresponds to the truth, provided that the questioner knows the basic style of his interlocutor, i.e. how he communicates in situations of normal emotional stress. The voice is an important element as it is difficult to change and therefore profilers consider rhythm, speed, volume and tone.
But how does all this manifest itself?
For example, if we were to ask a person how they feel and they reply that they are fine, we would expect the behavioural manifestation of this statement to be consistent with the statement made. However, his or her eyebrows raise inwards showing a triangle-like figure for a split second. We know that this is an indication of sadness.
Or, if someone’s face contracts to one side and not the other, it is an evidential sign of contempt.
People’s average ability to distinguish lies and truth varies at best around 54%. However, once the techniques are learnt, the percentage can be increased to around 90%.
During the seminars, participants learn the signals they need to observe and practical application is offered through analysis and evaluation exercises.
One experiment consists of giving two people who have not participated in specific training the opportunity to steal 100 euro in a wallet located in a restricted room.
If, after stealing it, they managed to fool the profilers by claiming not to have taken it, they would keep the money. Otherwise, the profiler would have won and kept the full amount.
The experiment showed that the profilers correctly identified who was lying and who was not with a success rate of almost 90%.
During the first phase of the investigation, the profilers asked questions in order to explore the normal behaviour of the respondents. Following this first phase they were able to capture the behavioural differences of respondents compared to their baseline.
Paul Ekman International offers a four-day course on “Evaluating the Truthfulness of Information and Credibility of the Interlocutor” (ETaC), a three-day course on “Emotional Skills and Competencies” (ESaC), as well as online tools for personal training and an international master’s degree.
“This science is too valuable to be used only by security agencies,” confirms Diego Ingrassia.
Detecting lies is a very important skill in various professions and those who acquire this new talent must be able to use it discreetly and responsibly.
We asked Diego Ingrassia how he deals with his co-workers and friends and he told us: ‘with this type of training we will begin to observe and notice elements that we did not think existed before. Sometimes it may seem to us that we are reading the mind of the person speaking to us. If one of my co-workers responds to my question that he is well and shows me sadness on his face, I have a duty not to state what I have seen as he himself will decide whether he wants to share that state of mind with me. The same situation may arise at home with my daughter. I can find out that she is lying to me, but I must be able to decide when that lie is part of her growth and when it can cause her a real problem. The fact that I am an expert and trained in picking up on these signals does not give me the right to declare it unless the other person wants me to. Of course I cannot prevent myself from noticing them.”
For more on the subject: http://www.corsipaulekman.it/