Expert Q&A With

Stu Dunn is the founder of the behavioural science consultancy, SDL. He is New Zealand's first and so far only Facial Action Coding System (FACS) Certified consultant.

An expert in body language, micro expressions and emotional surveillance he has worked on analyzing police interview footage to assess credibility, written and consulted for a national publication and assisted with thesis and university studies.

Who influenced you to pursue a career in body language?

I've always had a natural interest in human behaviour and non verbal communication, starting with reading books such as Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, any number of Alan Pease’s books - and of course – the earlier Paul Ekman’s books. It was definitely a combination of my psychology study and research into Ekman’s work that fired up my passion to pursue the five channels of communication as a career.

What does your SDL 101 Micro Expressions – Body Language course cover?

The SDL Online Program 101: Micro Expressions, Body Language & Deception Detection is an introduction that teaches each participant about the five channels of communication (face, body language and gestures, voice, verbal style and verbal statements). The 8 module program works through each of these topics, building on top of what was learnt in the previous module, in a way that does not overwhelm the participant – yet – by the end each participant will have learnt the skills to analyze basic video footage.

Each module has homework assignments that are required before moving onto the next module, to ensure the participant understands what we are trying to achieve and have them learn. This also ensures that they are not overwhelmed by not understanding a foundation point then trying to learn something on top of this. Also as part of the Online Program we include full access to micro expression online training. The reason for this is to ensure the participant has some practical experience of spotting micro expressions and recognizing emotions – necessary for Module 1.

Once someone completed the modules and the assignments participants are able to sit the final test. Upon passing at a minimum of 80% (and having supplied their micro expressions certificate), participants graduate with an SDL Certificate of Completion.

Upon successful completion of the SDL Online Program 101 and passing the 101 Final Test, we guarantee that students ability to spot micro expressions, interpret body language and detect deception through video analysis will have improved to a minimum of 80% accuracy.

What’s the most accurate way of detecting deception?

The simplest way I can explain detecting deception is in three steps – bearing in mind that behavioural cues to lying are different when people are not vested in having their story believed and have no fear of detection:

1. Obtain a baseline: Baselining behaviour – also referred to as benchmarking behaviour - is identifying what is normal behaviour for a subject. Finding a baseline is to find the subject’s neutral or normal state of behaviour. In order to identify anything out of the ordinary or out of character (clues to deceit), one must first identify the ordinary. Do they have any particular idiosyncrasies in their typical behaviour? Pay attention in order to avoid making the Brokaw Hazard - the possibility of misjudging people’s idiosyncrasies as deceit.

2. Recognise clusters: A cluster of cues relates to not just one or two clues to deceit occurring within a set event, but three or more. Clusters, or hot spots, are extremely likely areas where the subject is being deceitful. These could be any combination of clues from the five channels of communication (face, body & gestures, voice, verbal style and statements).

3. Practice and do not jump to conclusions!

How accurate is the ‘average’ person in detecting deceit?

Some people are better than others naturally, however, most aren’t much more accurate than chance.

What is the ‘Othello Error’?

The Othello Error – also referred to as a preconceptions or confirmation bias - is a disbelieving-the-truth error, where the interviewer fails to consider that a truthful person who is under stress may appear to be lying. To put more simply; the Othello Error is a truthful subject fearing being disbelieved.

The name of this error comes from Shakespeare’s Othello, where Othello accuses Desdemona of loving Cassio and demands she confess as he will kill her for betrayal. Desdemona asks that Cassio be called to testify to her innocence, however Othello tells her he’s already had Cassio murdered. Desdemona realises she will not be able to prove her innocence and that Othello will kill her.

Othello interprets Desdemona’s fear and distress as guilt, thus confirming his belief that she was unfaithful. He failed to see that if she were innocent she would show the same emotions.

The Othello Error is a truthful subject fearing being disbelieved.

What services does your behavioural science consultancy provide?

SDL helps our clients to understand non-verbal communication and to avoid deception. We do this by providing online courses, training and specialist advice in areas of behaviour, emotional analysis and deception detection.


SDL Online Program 101: Micro Expressions, Body Language & Deception Detection

SDL Micro Expressions, Body Language & Deception Detection 101 2-Day Program


Specialised (Job Specific) Consulting

Video/Picture Analysis: SDL provides confidential analysis of recorded interviews, identifying behavioural cues and hotspots related to deception, providing clients with a critical and extremely informative report. Backed by science, SDL evaluates facial expressions utilising

FACS coding, gestures and body language, analysing voice, verbal style and verbal statements. The results provide you with:

- A science-based evaluation of truth and credibility.

- Greater insight into the honesty of any interviewee.

- Provides the means to make better decisions.

Video analysis is available for footage that requires any kind of behavioural evaluation. For cases requiring deception detection, it is beneficial for SDL to have access to video footage for the most accurate analysis.

SDL analysis work has included police interviews, TV interviews, personal home videos, national magazine photo analysis, and work with universities.

FACS: Using FACS, SDL can code, identify and explain thousands of emotional reactions expressed through both voluntary and involuntary facial movements. Coding can be applied to images or videos.

How does being adept in reading body language affect your private life?

The kids can’t get away with as much at home! Lol. At home everyone’s pretty observant now, so we’ve cultivated a culture of honesty and thrive in an environment built on trust. We also have the rule to (at least try) not to analyse anyone at home!

When thinking about it, becoming proficient with understanding, interpreting and analysing non-verbal behaviour has allowed me to take in the story of a situation or individual in a scene that includes people much faster than I was previously – all the while checking myself from falling into unfounded assumptions!

What have you got planned for the rest of 2012?

Running the SDL 2-Day programs, launching affiliate programs, FACS work, continuing to promote and educate non verbal behaviour and diving into forensic psychology!

Learn More

Click Here to visit SDL Behavioural Science Consultancy.

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