As I mentioned in my last blog, a major component of detecting deception is the ability to identify nonverbal indicators.  We often refer to nonverbal indicators as body language. defines body language as “a type of nonverbal communication that relies on body movements (such as gestures, posture, and facial expressions) to convey messagesBody language may be used consciously or unconsciously. It may accompany a verbal message or serve as a substitute for speech.”

Body language, or non-verbal communication, plays a large role in any communication, especially in investigative interviews. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, conducted a study where he determined the verbal component of a face-to-face conversation to be less than 35%; this was compared to more than 65% for non-verbal or body language.

In a 1978 study, British psychologist Michael Argyle claimed humans have 700,000 forms of body language.

Peg Pickering, in her book,

How to Manage Conflict

, claims the split between verbal and non-verbal communication is even more dramatic. She asserts that 7% of all communication is verbal, while 93% is non-verbal, although she does not provide any sources to support these numbers.

Whatever percentage you choose to accept, it’s clear that we can’t ignore the impact, positive or negative, body language has on communication. It’s significant. Here are some examples of non-verbal indicators or body language that you might see during an investigative interview:

  • Eyes:
    • Eye contact is minimized.
    • Frequent rubbing of the eyes or eye brows.
    • Frequent blocking of the eyes with the arm or hands.
    • Eye closures
    • Eye rolling blinking
  • Lips:
    • Parsing
    • Biting
    • Partial smile
    • Licking
  • Facial touching:
    • Hand to cheek
    • Hand to throat
    • Hand to mouth
  • Throat clearing
  • Hard swallowing
  • Scratching or touching of nose or ear
  • Legs bouncing up and down
  • Jittery feet
  • Shifting of weight in the chair after a question
  • A sudden change in posture
  • Hands, legs, or objects put in front of body to form a barrier, such as folding arms
  • Wringing of hands
  • Steepling of hands

Combine a non-verbal with a verbal indicator and you have the making of a deception. Remember – one deception may raise a red flag and require additional questions, but it is not enough to establish lying.