Debunking Body Language Myths | Psychology Today Canada

Debunking Physique Language Myths | Psychology At this time Canada


Co-authored by Abbie Maroño, Ph.D.

On daily basis, we get queries from all over the world about nonverbals and invariably about detecting deception by physique language. The largest takeaway from the a whole bunch of messages is that regardless of the simple significance of nonverbal communication, many myths and false beliefs undermine its significance, relevance, or utility. So, we determined to pool our assets and touch upon ten myths about physique language which can be presently trending, and you could discover some have been trending for a very long time.

1. You’ll be able to detect deception based mostly on a person’s nonverbal behaviors.

False. Whereas we want we may, the reply is that we people are “no higher than probability at detecting deception”—a coin toss. So please put this fable away. We’ve identified this empirically since Paul Ekman’s best-seller, Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit within the Market, Politics, and Marriage, got here out in 1985. There isn’t any single conduct indicative of deception, not one. We have to cease associating behaviors indicative of psychological discomfort with deception and acknowledge them purely for what they’re: indicators of stress, anxiousness, apprehension, despair, suspicion, rigidity, concern, nervousness, and so forth., however not deception.

Additional, in a not too long ago revealed Ph.D. thesis (2021), Mapala used the newest movement seize, digital actuality, and eye-tracking expertise to look at nonverbal indicators of deception and concluded that “the non-verbal cues assessed couldn’t distinguish between trustworthy and misleading folks.”

2. The polygraph can detect lies.

Huge fable. The polygraph can not detect lies; it by no means has and by no means will. Because the APA reminds us, “The accuracy (i.e., validity) of polygraph testing has lengthy been controversial. An underlying drawback is theoretical: There isn’t any proof that any sample of physiological reactions is exclusive to deception. An trustworthy individual could also be nervous when answering in truth, and a dishonest individual could also be non-anxious.”

Lastly, the American Academy of Science reported in 2003 that the polygraph couldn’t be relied on as a result of “General, the proof is scanty and scientifically weak.”

Lastly, courts, together with the USA Supreme Court docket (cf. U.S. v. Scheffer, 1998), have repeatedly rejected using polygraph proof due to its “inherent unreliability.”

3. Scratching together with your proper hand signifies the necessity for assist, however scratching with the left signifies non permanent uncertainty reasonably than needing assist.

This fable was incredulously revealed in a “physique language” guide. The premise of this fable comes from analysis indicating that the best hand is related to the rational left half of the mind whereas the left hand is related to the emotional proper half of the mind. It was argued that scratching with both hand signifies completely different inner states.

Though there certainly exists hemispheric dominance and lateralization for info processing, each hemispheres are deeply interconnected and don’t operate fully independently from each other. There additionally exists no empirical proof to assist a causal relationship between emotions of uncertainty and scratching with a specific hand.

4. There are three several types of folks, and you may inform their personalities and communication types based mostly on their physique language.

This fable appeared after a well-liked discuss made its means across the web and is based on the ephemeral argument that each one human beings match one in every of three distinct neurological profiles—unsurprisingly, analysis doesn’t assist this. People are far too complicated to be leavened into three classes.

It was additionally proposed that every of those teams has distinctive nonverbal facial options, similar to skinny vs. thick lips, completely different preferences for eye contact, self-touching, clothes, and an array of different assertions that aren’t supported by analysis and ignore cultural components.

5. Contempt is the one uneven expression proven on the face.

This argument stems from the idea that there’s just one distinct emotion current on our face at anyone time, which has particular related options, and that uneven options can accompany no emotion aside from contempt.

Let’s take into account that feelings are hardly ever felt in full isolation. They’re dynamic and extremely fluid, overlapping, contradictory at occasions, and sophisticated. Have you ever ever felt each glad and unhappy, excited a couple of new alternative but in addition nervous in regards to the change?

For instance, the “Higher Lip Rise” (#174), mentioned in The Dictionary of Physique Language, the place the individual smiles and solutions positively, however the higher lip pulls unilaterally, indicating disgust or dislike. Like that, there are numerous facial behaviors, together with “Mouth Stretching” (#165), the place the mouth is pulled to the aspect, often seen if you understand you made a mistake and others are taking a look at you, and also you worry you bought caught. Each of those examples are uneven expressions.

Our facial expressions usually are not at all times indicative of just one precise emotion and an uneven expression does not at all times point out emotions of contempt. Please take into account studying this on Emotional Chirality.

6. Liars will keep away from eye contact.

One other fable that must be shut down. Because the analysis of famed psychologist Aldert Vrij (Vrij 2000, 88-89) confirmed, liars have interaction in higher eye contact as a result of they wish to make sure that they’re being believed. Once we can chill out round others, we’ve got the liberty to look away. And, in fact, we have to take into account that in lots of cultures, they’re taught to look down and keep away from eye contact when they’re being contrite.

7. Ninety-three % of all human communication is nonverbal.

The odds quoted usually range from wherever between 70-93 %. This got here from a misunderstanding of a traditional research by Albert Mehrabian. In his work, Mehrabian by no means acknowledged that we will put an actual proportion to the verbal vs. nonverbal component of human communication on the whole, reasonably in that individual research when just one phrase was mentioned, the nonverbal element was 93 %.

Communication is fluid and reflexive in addition to situational, in different phrases, there isn’t a set quantity.

8. Crossing your arms throughout the stomach, says, “preserve away.”

This false impression stems from analysis on blocking behaviors, which present that when a person feels uncomfortable or threatened they might use elements of their physique to create a bodily barrier between themself and others. Therefore, behaviors just like the crossing of the arms sign discomfort. In my very own (Maroño) analysis I’ve discovered that these behaviors is usually a sign of misery and discomfort.

However, I’ve additionally discovered that most of the time, this conduct is only a snug means for us to relaxation our arms. Arm crossing is commonly nothing greater than a tactile self-comforting conduct once we are ready for one thing to start out, whereas engaged in a dialog, and even once we are upset—kids do that on a regular basis. What issues is the context and accompanying nonverbals, like the complete image, not simply an remoted conduct.

9. If an individual solutions a query by first touching their nostril they’re mendacity.

One other fable that’s mistaken and may have severe implications as I famous in “Detecting Lies vs. Detecting Reality–Severe Implications.” We contact our faces all day lengthy as a way to self-soothe. We naturally achieve this once we are being scrutinized, talked to, or really feel apprehensive. Neither this nor every other remoted conduct, similar to mouth touching or wiping, signifies deception. These are pacifiers, and the trustworthy and the dishonest use them.

10. If an individual seems to be as much as the best or all the way down to the left to reply a query they’re mendacity.

As David Matsumoto famous in an article particularly written for the FBI Legislation Enforcement Bulletin in 2011,

Twenty-three out of 24 peer-reviewed research revealed in scientific journals reporting experiments on eye conduct as an indicator of mendacity have rejected this speculation. No scientific proof exists to recommend that eye conduct or gaze aversion can gauge truthfulness reliably.


It is a brief checklist of the various current myths about detecting deception and physique language. The reader could be sensible to ask,

Has this been validated empirically, are there different attainable explanations, does tradition issue into any of this, are these common, who’s making these assertions, and in what number of cultures all over the world have they been noticed?

A bit of scepticism goes a great distance and naturally there are many empirical research on the topic to which we should always all avail ourselves.

Abbie Maroño, PhD. is the director of Behavioural Analysis in Communications (BRINC) and is on the College of Northampton (U.Okay.) college.

Copyright © 2022, Joe Navarro and Abbie Maroño, PhD.


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