Tuesday, November 19, 2013


The truth is hard to come by I suspect when it comes to the press and articles in newspapers, magazines and online media.  The reality of the press only really comes to light when one reads a story about a subject that one knows about.  I have probably ready 5 stories that I know about well enough to be able to say that what is written is biased and misrepresentative, a misunderstanding of the truth or just plain wrong.

What I noted is that the score is 100%.  Of all the things I have read that I have background information on the writing has been wrong 100% of the time.

One article came my way this week on Ekman.  I am a big fan of Paul Ekman and his work.  His work on the FACS (Facial Action Coding System) is fascinating as are his books.  The article was claiming that the use of his approach to the detection of deceit is unscientific and does not work.  Sadly none of this is true.  Or is true but for the wrong reasons.

The article was right.  The method does fail to reliably detect deceit.  That is because the method makes no real claim to deceit detection.  FACS and his methods are focused on emotions not deceit.  When one seeks to deceive one does trigger many emotions.  It is the emotional leakage that the method seeks to identify.  And it does so scientifically.  And it works.  But it is really hard to master.  

So let's be clear.  The method identifies emotions, not deceit.  If someone at an airport displays detectable emotional leakage it is not necessarily deceit.  There are many reasons for emotional leakage many of which are nothing to do with deceit.  One can be stressed, scared of authority, nervous about meeting someone etc etc.  All of which will trigger emotional leakage.  

You can detect emotional leakage but Ekman is clear that to translate this into deceit requires a lot more than just facial movements.

The article is therefore making an over claim that the scientist behind the method did not make in the first place and then states that it is unreliable.


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