Reconsidering facial expressions and deception detection

Zloteanu, Mircea (2020) Reconsidering facial expressions and deception detection. In: Freitas-Magalhaes, A. and Borod, Joan, (eds.) Handbook of Facial Expression of Emotion. Porto, Portugal : FEELab Science Books. pp. 238-283. 3 ISBN 9788410746978


The function of facial expressions of emotions in detecting deception has been a hotly debated topic. One side argues that liars and truth-teller display different facial expressions which can be used as diagnostic cues of deceit. The other argues that such cues are rare, unpredictable, and ambiguous, and as such are unreliable to detecting deception. This chapter overviews facial expression in deception detection, separating their alleged diagnostic value as cues to deception from that of strategic affective signals in human communication. Building upon our current understanding and research in the deception and emotion fields, I elaborate on relevant but underdeveloped concepts, and address how the process of detecting lies can be influenced by facial expressions of emotions. I critically evaluate several assumptions of the emotion-based approach to detecting deception, illustrating the limitations of this view. A strong emphasis is placed on expanding the role of facial expressions in deception, by considering both the encoder-decoder and the affective-signaling perspectives. I propose a careful distinction between genuine cues and deceptive cues, considering the importance of emotional authenticity and sender intent. Finally, I consider the role of facial expressions of emotion in human veracity judgment and future directions for the field of emotion and deception in light of the current propositions. This is done in light of recent propositions to the use of automated lie detection tools on the basis of facial expressions of emotion. I argue that caution must be given to such techniques, elaborating on the flawed underpinnings guiding their decisions, and make considerations for the future of this research.

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