10/23/2012 07:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Art of Detecting a Lie :The Presidential Candidates

Anyone can be trained to detect a lie quickly and with a fair degree of accuracy. There is no magical power or special technology that one needs. In my previous posts on how to detect a lie I talked about microexpressions and the work of scientist and lie detection expert Paul Ekman. Although Ekman publicly refuses to analyze and expose politicians when they are still in office, there is no reason why anyone can't take his work and apply it to their own interests.

Here are three keys to successful detection during the presidential campaign.

1. Get a baseline measurement. Everyone has quirks and norms that could be misinterpreted as microexpressions or "tells" that the person is lying. By taking a minimum five-minute sample from most any video you can establish a "norm." Then look for deviations. Archived footage on Youtube can be very helpful in this respect.


Mitt Romney may often show the expression for disgust when he is not happy with a question. Since Romney has a more symmetrical face it is easier to capture his expressions. Try to determine what the expression above is. What was your first intuition when you saw the image?


President Obama has a pronounced curvature to one side of his mouth. Often amateur analysts may interpret this as a sign of contempt. However, if you watch the president for a long enough time you will note that this is in fact a norm for him and not a sign of contempt, so instead in this case you should look for when he deviates from that curvature. Can you determine in the above picture capture what his microexpression is?

2. Forget about all the other minor stuff. Look out only for the six primary human emotions that according to Ekman are universal :


Here is a brief video that will show you the correct analysis of each emotion.

Microexpressions shown by Tim Roth in his role as Cal Lightman in Lie to Me.

Once you learn to accurately detect each microexpression then the next step will be learning how to apply them to each individual and to each situation that you are analyzing.

3. Most importantly remember that watching microexpression can be an accurate way to detect the person's feelings at the time of the expression. However, the interpretation of the microexpression can make all the difference. For example, if a candidate says they will not raise taxes and then has a microexpression of sadness, does it mean that they are sad about taxes? Does it mean that they are lying and that they will raise taxes or does it mean that they are sad that they can't do anything about taxes? It can take experts years of watching each person and their individual expressions to decipher this. Even then we may never know what goes through the complex human brain much less the minds of politicians. What we can do is get some hints on specific issues and also get a general idea as far as the bigger picture is concerned. It is essential to keep an overall score card and to spend some time after watching an event to analyze each important issue and each candidate's reactions using a point system that you can use as a compass should you need to.