Why this nonverbal profiler is not analyzing Meghan and Harry

But is more interested in your behavior

11 maart 2021

I can almost hear you ask from the other side of this internet connection: “my behavior? What is wrong with my behavior?” And to answer your question…..nothing is wrong with your behavior. You are just wired in a certain way. And that is exactly my point!

A lot of nonverbal experts are being asked about the most important interview at this moment: “Is this story true? Or are Meghan and Harry lying?”. And I also got the question if I will be writing about the interview. I respectfully declined. What actually fascinates me is why everyone is so obsessed about the possible truth or lies behind this story. And also why my nonverbal expert colleagues cannot resist to write about nonverbal behavior in relation to lie detection. To me these two behaviors are a lot more interesting to write about.

It’s all in the brain
The amygdala (part of the limbic brain) functions as an alarm system when we feel threatened. It’s role, amongst other things is to register experiences with threat and risk. It influences our perception of threat and defensive distance. When we feel threatened we need to take quick decisions about approaching or distancing ourselves from certain situations, interactions, etc.

Our hunger for the truth
Knowing if someone is trustworthy can help us decide if we want to approach or distance ourself from the situation. So what happens, is quite normal. But what can cause a problem is that you register a situation as a threat and decide too quickly. Your interaction and willingness to really understand the situation can be at risk because of placing labels and judgements too quickly. In this case our hunger for the truth can actually keep us from asking the real questions: what where the motives and interests of both parties, how did all these relationships escalate to this point? And most importantly what can all members of “the institution” learn to overcome their (interactional, social and cultural) problems?

The difference between understanding behavior and lies
To me lies are not interesting at all. Everyone lies, including me and you. If it would be possible to detect a lie from a particular movement, how would it help you? Knowing that someone is lying will not give you direct access to their motives and interests. You will have to use your conversational and interviewing skills anyway to actually discover the possible truth.

Nonverbal communication and liedetection
We are entering a new era where more and more specialists are telling you this over and over again: There are no particular nonverbal movements that are indicative for deception. (Joe Navarro, Aldert Vrij, Vincent Denault). But there are also nonverbal experts who say that if you look in a certain way or direction you might be lying. Or another good one: the more signals someone shows the less likely it is that someone is lying.

At INSA consultancy we tend to follow, Navarro, Vrij and Denault. We also follow the theories of James Russell and Nico Frijda that people tend to show a state of high arousal or low arousal and that this might also say something about their state of action readiness. In our own research we found that every person has a unique set of micro movements in the face, which we call a Personal Nonverbal Repertoire (PNR).

We found that there are people that can show a PNR of just a few movements or a larger number. We also found that we can relate this PNR to certain behavioral tendencies.


This PNR is always present and can be observed in a 5 to 10 minute conversation with someone.

So what does this say about lie detection?
You are right! Absolutely nothing! And if people tell you they can detect lies from certain nonverbal signs, you should do your own research before you believe them. What you can do is to have good conversation with someone and detect their bandwidth of comfortable and uncomfortable (nonverbal) behaviors. And after that, the hard part begins: building rapport and confront someone when necessary. And to use the nonverbal signals as a timing tool to discover lies by having this essential conversation.

So what do we actually need?
First, I think we really need to think about our own behavior: why do we need to know if this couple is lying? Is it because it’s easier to put a label or judgement on the situation so we don’t feel threatened? To get our brain out of a state confusion or uncertainty?

Second, I would advise my fellow nonverbal specialists to stop giving people a quick win solution by analyzing interviews with the goal to give an opinion about truths or lies. What we do need is to really understand behavior from a deeper level. That your perception of fear and your own nonverbal impact is always influencing interactions. People can show signs of nervousness (or lack thereof) just because of your own nonverbal impact. Lying is just one of many scenario’s and you still need a conversation to spot a lie.

But that is the hard part right: rewiring your own brain and show behavior were people actually feel the willingness to tell the truth!