CAE Reading and Use of English Part 7
You are going to read an article about facial expressions. Six paragraphs have been removed from the article. Choose from the paragraphsA – Gthe one which fits each gap (41-46). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.
Do fleeting changes of facial expression show whether someone is telling lies?
Forty years ago, research psychologist Dr Paul Ekman was addressing a group of young psychiatrists in training when he was asked a question whose answer has kept him busy pretty much ever since. Suppose you are working in a psychiatric hospital like this one and a patient who has previously been aggressive comes to you. ‘I’m feeling much better now,’ the patient says. ‘Can I have a pass out for the weekend?’
It set Ekman thinking. As part of his research, he had already recorded a series of twelve-minute interviews with patients at the hospital. In a subsequent conversation, one of the patients told him that she had lied to him. So Ekman sat and looked at the film. Nothing. He slowed it down and looked again. Slowed it further. And suddenly, there, across just two frames, he saw it: a vivid, intense expression of extreme anguish.
Over the course of the next four decades, Ekman successfully demonstrated a proposition first suggested by Charles Darwin: that the ways in which we express anger, disgust, contempt, fear, surprise, happiness and sadness are both innate and universal.
However, particularly when we are lying, ‘micro expressions’ of powerfully felt emotions will invariably flit across our faces before we get a chance to stop them. Fortunately for liars, as many as ninety-nine percent of people will fail to spot these fleeting signals of inner torment. But given a bit of training, Ekman says, almost anyone can develop the skill.
The psychologist’s techniques, he concedes, can only be a starting point for criminal investigators applying them. ‘All they show is that someone’s lying,’ he says. ‘You have to question very carefully because what you really want to know is why they are lying. No expression of emotion, micro or macro, reveals exactly what is triggering it.’ He gives an example.
Plus there are lies and lies. Ekman defines a lie as being a deliberate choice and intent to mislead, and with no notification that this is what is occurring. ‘An actor or a poker player isn’t a liar,’ he says. ‘They’re supposed to be deceiving you – it’s part of the game. I focus on serious lies: where the consequences for the liar are grave if they’re found out.’
Just read micro expressions and subtle expressions correctly, however, and Ekman reckons your accuracy in detecting an attempt at deception will increase dramatically. However, when it comes to spotting really serious lies – those that could, for example, affect national security – he says simply that he ‘does not believe we have solid evidence that anything else works better than chance.’ Is he lying? I couldn’t tell.
But once he had spotted the first one, he soon found three more examples in that same interview. ‘And that,’ says Ekman, ‘was the discovery of microexpressions; very fast, intense
expressions of concealed emotion.’
Ekman, incidentally, professes to be ‘a terrible liar’ and observes that although some people
are plainly more accomplished liars than others, he cannot teach anyone how to lie. ‘The ability to detect a lie and the ability to lie successfully are completely unrelated,’ he says. But how can what he has learned help crime-solving?
But how reliable are Ekman’s methods? ‘Microexpressions,’ he says, ‘are only part of a whole set of possible deception indicators. There are also what we call subtle expressions. A very slight tightening of the lips, for example, is the most reliable sign of anger. You need to study a person’s whole demeanour: gesture, voice, posture, gaze and also, of course, the words themselves.’
You also know, of course, that psychiatric patients routinely make such claims and that
some, if they are granted temporary leave, will cause harm to themselves or others. But this particular patient swears they are telling the truth. They look, and sound, sincere. So here’s the question; is there any way you can be sure they are telling the truth?
Generally, though, the lies that interest Ekman are those in which ‘the threat of loss or punishment to the liar is severe: loss of job, loss of reputation, loss of spouse, loss of freedom’.
Also those where the target would feel properly aggrieved if they knew.
‘Suppose,’ Ekman posits, ‘my wife has been found murdered in our hotel. How would I react when the police questioned me? My demeanour might well be consistent with a concealed emotion. That could be because I was guilty or because I was extremely angry at being a suspect, yet frightened of showing anger because I knew it might make the police think I was guilty.’
The facial muscles triggered by those seven basic emotions are, he has shown, essentially the same, regardless of language and culture, from the US to Japan, Brazil to Papua New Guinea. What is more, expressions of emotion are involuntary; they are almost impossible to suppress or conceal. We can try, of course.