the truth behind lying

Reading Facial Expressions and Body Language in the Fight against Crime

Most people are aware that their body language and behavior can reveal that they are lying. What most people don't know is that certain facial features and expressions can also give away their predisposition or intention to lie.

Thanks to the TV show Lie to Me, most people have at least heard of micro-expressions – very brief facial expressions, lasting only a fraction of a second, which expose a person’s true emotions and can't be hidden. Micro-expressions are shown on a person's face even if they are trying, consciously or unconsciously, to hide emotions. But showing our true feelings is not reserved only for our faces – our whole body is transmitting information about our thoughts, desires, fears and intentions with far more regularity.

Did You Know?

  • An average person can distinguish the truth from a lie 54% of the time.
  • 60% of adults can't have a 10 minute conversation without lying at least once.
  • People tell more lies in January than in any other month.

In fact, UCLA research has shown that only 7 percent of communication is based on the actual words we say. Remarkably, 38 percent comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55 percent comes from body language.


We talked to Damir Zolota, an expert in reading facial micro-expressions and body language, who is currently doing a Major in Psychology at the Webster University in Vienna and has two certificates as an expert in micro and subtle expressions. He shared with us his knowledge of "reading" body language and facial micro-expressions and recognizing when a person is a liar and a fraudster, but also talked about his calling and how it can be beneficial to different industries.


How can you describe a profiler's job and where can one educate yourself to become a profiler?

The primary aim of criminal profiling is to reveal the behavioral make-up of an unknown offender.

It is an investigative tool used by law enforcement agencies to identify likely suspects (descriptive offender profiling) and analyze patterns that may predict future offenses and/or victims.

Which industries can benefit from profiling and how has analyzing micro-expressions and body language changed through time?

Micro-expressions and body language haven’t changed through time. Reading those two behaviors has, however, with new technology and the accessibility of advanced programs for scanning faces and expressions in most advanced ways. Profiling can be used in any industry; it is mostly used in criminal justice, psychology, and airport security.

What exactly are micro-expressions and how do they show if someone is hiding something or lying?

When a person conceals emotions, leakage of that emotion can often be found on their face. Same thing with body language: if someone is trying to hide the body reaction of an emotion, that person will, with a gesture of their body, reveal their real emotion. This leakage may be seen on one region of the face, or flashed in a millisecond across the whole face, same as it can be flashed with a gesture or a posture of person's body.

How are you analyzing faces to find out if a person is dangerous or has a tendency to lie? Can you tell a person is lying by his or her gestures?

The face is an adaptive thing, and it changes with our inner emotions. Our emotions make the differences on the face that is already constructed genetically. Those small changes on someone's face are spots that profilers are searching for. Dangerous persons have a dominant position of eyebrows, chin, and thin and straight lips with corners that are going to pointed shape. 

The most common gesture when people lie is itchy nose. It can be itchy neck, head, or a series of gestures, such as hiding your arms, fixing a collar, fast breathing, sweating or a stutter while talking. 

Can plastic surgery influence profiling?

Plastic surgery doesn’t have a big effect on reading faces. We observe a face as a unity. We observe where the original parts of face were before any surgery. A nose or lips can change in shape, but that doesn’t deter  an expert from reading a face based on physiognomy. 

How can reading micro-expressions and body language help in detecting and preventing fraud?

By analyzing and profiling people we can select people who have more tendency for fraud. Past actions can be used as indicators of future actions. Micro-expressions can show when someone is  hiding something or when someone is being  dishonest, while body language shows the real feelings in body posture.