In this post I will be looking at 2 different papers and how nonverbal language can determine if someone is telling the truth or being deceptive. I will then pose a research theory on how different people and their cultural background determine what they consider to be deceptive body language or truthful interactions.

“Nonverbal cues are often subtle, we also believe that they can reliably discriminate between truth and deception if analyzed as constellations of behaviors that form patterns.” (Burgoon, Schuetzler, & Wilson, 2014)

I believe most of what we say is interpreted by how we receive the information, rather than what we are actually hearing. Context is important, but it seems that most people focus on how you are saying something rather than what you are actually saying. How we are saying certain information is ultimately what people interpret and receive.

Useful Research

I will look at 2 different articles, one that talks about deceptive body language and the second focused on different hand movements. The study would be on a University campus like UVU and ask people 3 questions: where they were born, what religion they practice and what was their age. That way you could get a variation of different people from potentially all parts of the world and different ages.

Ask the participants a series of questions to observe their body language as they are interviewing with you. Ask questions that you know they do not want to answer truthfully or basic questions you know they will give true answers to. Like what’s your eye color? Or how tall are you?

Close up of girl grabbing her elbow nervously

It’s Not About Words

Nonverbal communication makes up the majority of the communication process and how we interpret what we are hearing. Here I will review one journal that I found on kinesic patterning in deceptive and truthful interactions. They looked at how people are deceitful, when they are telling a lie and explain the different type of body language and other nonverbal cues they used when telling the lie. “As already noted, when people tell lies, their speech is more hesitant and abbreviated, less lexically and syntactically complex and diverse than that of truth tellers”. (Burgoon, et al., 2014)

Nonverbal cues, body language or things such as different hand gestures can also help to influence whether or not someone believes what we are saying or just determines it to be deceptive.

Patterns of Behavior

The first article that I reviewed stated that the, “article offers empirical support that even a small set of kinesic behaviors can set truth tellers apart from deceivers when examined as part of recurrent patterns.” (Burgoon, et al., 2014) So behavior could be deceptive or truthful depending on the patterns of behaviors that people were nonverbally displaying. Like certain hand movements or different facial expressions.

It was also found that “single behaviors are less reliable than combinations of behaviors”, (Burgoon, et al., 2014) so predictable behavior can help individuals determine the intended meaning of the speaker’s message. But, that being deceptive would put a bigger burden on cognitive functionality, requiring them to focus more on whether or not their deceptive message was believed. In the hypotheses they concluded “The current investigation thus considered whether the composition and complexity of patterns in deceptive interactions differ from those in truthful interactions”, which to me shows that it is a lot more complicated and requires more effort to be deceitful rather than to just tell the truth from the beginning.

Their conclusion stated, “We have demonstrated significant differences in the complexity, length, and distribution of nonverbal kinesic behaviors when an individual is being deceptive versus truthful.”
(Burgoon, et al., 2014)

Two hands, one offering cigarettes and the other declining

Types of Hand Gestures

In the second article I reviewed, the “experiment examined the relationship between different types of discourse linked hand movements and deception.” (Caso, Maricchiolo, Bonaiuto, Vrij, & Mann, 2006) They specifically looked at “two types of hand gestures: illustrators (i.e., hand gestures that modify and/or supplement what is being said verbally) and self-adaptors (i.e., gestures of self contact assumed to have the purpose of satisfying self or bodily needs.)” (Caso, et al., 2006)

They put together several hypothesis on different gestures or hand movements that would help in determining if the individual is lying. They also set up the different types of groups that they would be observing. They “further found that deception was related to a decrease in self adaptors.” (Caso, et al., 2006) They had a group of people that participated and drew their conclusions based of the results of the entire study.

Field Research

In the study we would go onto college campus and interview 10,000 students. The participants would be random but evenly diverse and asked a series of questions using particular body language while telling a lie to determine if it was believed and then a different set of questions telling the truth. The body language that we would focus on is eye contact and facial expressions, smiling and changing your facial expressions to resemble a smirk. Also making eye contact throughout the entire interaction, while telling the truth or lying.

Hypothesis 1: making eye contact throughout the whole conversation would influence whether or not participants believed a statement to be true or found it to be a lie.

Hypotheses 2: displaying facial expressions of happiness would influence the participant to believe something to be a lie or the statement to be a lie.

In the end the study we would be able to conclude if making eye contact and expressing happiness would influence someone believing the statements being made or rejecting them as a lie.


In conclusion we could determine if nonverbal behaviors like eye contact or facial expressions of happiness (smiling) or sarcasm, or things such as smirking would influence participants to believe statements being made as true, or deceptive. How we are saying what we are saying also influences what individuals determine truth to be.


Burgoon, J. K., Schuetzler, R., & Wilson, D. W. (2014). Kinesic Patterning in Deceptive and Truthful Interactions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 39(1), 1-24. doi:10.1007/s10919-014-0190-4

Caso, L., Maricchiolo, F., Bonaiuto, M., Vrij, A., & Mann, S. (2006). The Impact Of Deception And Suspicion On Different Hand Movements. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 30(1), 1-19. doi:10.1007/s10919-005-0001-z

By Mac

I am looking to change the rhetoric and perception of the American Veteran, one person at a time. #Post8ForLife Semper Fi! 🇺🇸

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.