5 Seconds to Truth: How to Use the New Body Language to Detect Deception

Janine Driver, ATF-Certified, CEO of The Body Language Institute and the self-proclaimed “Lyin’ Tamer,” began her session today at the 26th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference by analyzing the body language of two unknowing audience members. 

She quickly summed up the way one man was sitting with his arm on the chair next to him by saying that he was confident. “When we are confident, we choose to take up more space,” Driver said. She then pointed out several men who were turned around to face her in the back of the room (where she began her session) by saying, “See those men right there? Their elbows are popped up on their chairs. That is what usually says that you are powerful and likable. Think of Liz Taylor in her ads. She always popped her elbow…and it worked. People bought the products she was trying to sell.”

Through these quick and observant examples, Driver set the tone for a fast-hitting, lively and interactive session about the importance of body language. “Your body language matters,” Driver said. “And, no matter what other people say, it can be measured.”

Driver gave three examples of how we are able to measure people’s body language. She told the story of an Australian government official who was caught on camera saying to a group of servicemen who had just lost a friend and comrade, “Well, you know, shit happens, right?” When he was later interviewed by a reporter on camera, all he could do was nod repeatedly and not answer the question about why he responded that way. Driver said that his body language alone created a story of his inability to explain such an off-color and insensitive remark; there simply was no explanation for it. With his lack of words and plentiful head-nodding, the audience and people lost a tremendous amount of faith in one of their leaders. 

Her second example of how we measure body language came in the form of lost votes for Al Gore, the previous Democratic candidate for U.S. presidency, in 2000. Gore was debating former President George W. Bush on live television when he decided to step out from behind his dais in an attempt to intimidate Bush during a heated discussion. While Bush spoke, Gore stepped out in front and towered over him. Bush responded with a snarky comment that garnered laughs, and he ended up coming through as the leader in votes. Gore was seen as arrogant and pompous and slowly began a downward spiral in likability numbers. 

In her final example, she showed a clip of Paula Deen, a T.V. food personality, breaking down in an interview about her use of a derogatory term. She broke down, was visibly shaken and came off as a victim, rather than owning her mistake. Her reaction, along with how she responded in other ways to the action, lost her millions (approximately $10 million) in sponsors. Driver pointed out after these examples that yes, there are ways to measure body language. We can measure it in trust, votes and dollars. 

For fraud examiners, measuring body language can be just as useful as measuring it in the mainstream media or in societal relationships. It’s noticing what happens when people — like the Australian official, Gore and Deen — become uncomfortable and divert from their usual baseline tendencies that tells you when something might not be right. “You need to get their baseline, and then find their hot spot,” Driver said. “Most people stop here, but you need to go further. I want you to be good communicators, not mind readers.”