March 29th, 2011Microexpressions – A Key to Studying Human Behavior
Since the launch of my book, Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking, there has been a lot of people talking to me about chapter 5 all about microexpressions and non-verbal communication.
It is true that non-verbal communication is fascinating to understand and for us as social engineers, I feel it is essential. Being able to decipher human emotions can change the way you communicate. Understanding what someone is saying, or even NOT saying can make communication so much easier. Also knowing how to control your own microexpressions is a vital key to portraying the proper message to those you are communicating with or even your targets in a social engineering audit.
With that being said, I enjoy watching news clips looking for times where the non-verbals do not match what is being said. I feel this helps me better understand people and also is great practice in reading these non-verbal signals.
A Recent Case Study
Recently I saw on CNN a news report where Nancy Grace ripped apart a weatherman for his views on harmful radiation from Japan hitting US Soil. Whether you like Nancy’s syle or not, most agree that she is very aggressive, but sometimes it is fun to watch her rip apart a criminal when he tries to back pedal his explanations for past crimes.
This was not the case. Bernie Rayno, an Accuweather Meterologist was making some pretty valid points about the tragedy in Japan and how the radiation would not affect those on the West Coast of the US. Take a moment to watch the clip and see what you think.
At around 41 seconds into this video Bernie begins to explain how the radiation in Japan is horrible for the poor folks in that country, but it will not affect Americans adversely at all. At 49 seconds Bernie openly admits that he knows Nancy is about to attack him, but this is where it gets truly interesting. From that point to about 1:30 Bernie is defending his position but he continues to put professional “smiles” on his face trying to show how civil he is. At around 1:30 he says, “Maybe we should just agree to disagree…” and right after that at about 1:32 you can see a few things happening in a couple seconds or less from here. First, after rebutting her you can see a slight wrinkling of his nose and lip on his left side being raised. The first fractions of a second it is very subtle. Take a look at this here:
With in a second or less he followed it with this:
What does this look like to you? A subtle nose wrinkling and lip curling on one side of the face….
Both of those above screen shots show first subtle then more pronounced contempt. Right after being attacked by Nancy he tries to smile and say “lets just agree to disagree” but his non-verbal facial expressions do not match what he is saying.
It gets even more interesting from there. Bernie spends the next minute rebutting her attacks and smiling. He does a great job to the average viewer looking as if he remained calm and collected under pressure.
But at 2:27 Nancy takes her insults to a new low. Saying “let me school you” as she talks about how her degrees will allow her to now educate Bernie is the laws of weather. He follows up with a very cordial, “Oh, you are gonna school me?” in a calm tone and a very charming smile. But what does his face say?
In between the 2:34-2:36 mark we see:
And literally followed up right away with this expression being definitely displayed:
WOW. All the smiles in the world can’t hide this microexpression from being seen. Can you see what it is?
As clear as day Bernie has been cordial long enough and now is displaying his true emotion, anger. After a couple minutes of being insulted and barraged and now “schooled” he was not able to masked it with his charming smile any longer.
What’s The Point?
What is the point in all of this? It is not to insult Nancy or uncover some secrets from Mr. Rayno, not at all. But the point is that we can use news clips like this to help us learn and practice how to read what is truly being said behind the external emotion displayed.
Once we practice doing this it will enhance our abilities in the security field. It will help us to discern a person’s true emotions and help us to communicate more effectively. It can also helps us to see how other people react, truly react and feel, about what we are saying or doing.
Till Next Time..
As clear as day Bernie has been cordial long enough and now is displaying his true emotion, anger. If you ask me, rightfully so too. After a couple minutes of being insulted and barraged and now “schooled” he was not able to masked it with his charming smile any longer.