Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 59–90 | Cite as

Policemen’s and Civilians’ Beliefs About Facial Cues of Deception

  • Hugues Delmas
  • Benjamin Elissalde
  • Nicolas Rochat
  • Samuel DemarchiEmail author
  • Charles Tijus
  • Isabel Urdapilleta
Original Paper


The most commonly discussed nonverbal indicators in scientific literature about subjective cues to deception are gaze aversion, smiling, self-adaptors, illustrators, body movements, etc. One of the methods for studying beliefs is the closed question method (CQM). The CQM studies beliefs through written questionnaires in which facial cues are described with words. In the present study, the CQM was adapted to the study of facial expressions by using a photographic questionnaire. Indeed, instead of written descriptions in a questionnaire, we used photos of facial expressions to improve the classification of facial cues with contrastive participants (police officers and civilians). Fifty-four standardized photos of facial movements based on the facial action coding system were used as stimuli. The task was to determine whether a particular expression was more or less present during a lie. Results highlight cues perceived as more present (e.g., lip wiping) or less present (e.g., fear) during a lie. Only a few differences emerged between civilians and police officers (e.g., head lowering) suggesting that they had similar beliefs. The accuracy of police officers’ beliefs was better than chance, but remains low for such a professional. Results revealed many new beliefs about deception which can be of help in updating police training on this topic in order to decrease the number of false alarms about lies.


Facial expressions Lie detection Belief Police officers 



The authors would like to thank Chloé Pugnetti, Vincent Denault, and Frédéric Tomas for their help and their comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Moreover, we would like to thank Commissioner Philippe Guichard (OCRVP), Commissioner Emmanuelle Oster (SRPT), Commissioner Bastien Barnabé (CSI) and Jean-Louis Calmon (GSO) for their support and their permissions to conduct the study in their services. Finally, we thank the police officers and the civilians who took part in the study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were done so in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LAPPS (Laboratoire Parisien de Psychologie Sociale)Paris 8 UniversitySaint-DenisFrance
  2. 2.CHArt (Laboratoire de Cognitions Humaine et Artificielle), Department of PsychologyParis 8 UniversitySaint-DenisFrance
  3. 3.Behavioural Sciences DivisionADN ResearchParisFrance
  4. 4.OCRVP (Central Office for the Repression of Violence Against People), Police ForceParisFrance

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