Nonverbal Observations From The Vice Presidential Debate

October 12, 2012 in Assessing Individuals

I decided to wait a day before commenting on last night’s Vice Presidential debate because I wanted to see how the press was going to report the exchange between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.  I wanted to compare the perception that viewers had of the candidates and then look at the body language that influenced those assessments.  Since a great deal of attention and reporting has been focused on Joe Biden’s performance, we can take a look at how he communicated non-verbally.

The response has been split down the middle, depending on the political affiliations the various news organizations have.  Depending on which website you may have read, the headlines either read that Joe Biden “showed his teeth” or that “he was arrogant and unbound.”  Let’s break down the nonverbal elements for each side of the coin. Continue reading »

I’m Not An Expert And I Don’t Want To Be

August 30, 2012 in Assessing Individuals, Learning About Learning

Exactly one year before the workplace violence-related shooting last week outside of the Empire State building, I posted my second article on this site.  It was titled, “Am I an Expert Yet” and it was written with the goal of instilling confidence in students to use and apply the profiling skills they were learning in class.  My intent was for students to take proactive steps towards identifying and taking action on the anomalies they observed and not be passive bystanders.  But after watching the media call on countless self-proclaimed “experts” to comment on the events that took place before and after the shooting, I can’t help but be frustrated.

Experts Know Capabilities and Limitations.

I don’t think there are very many people who are body language experts.  Continue reading »

Empire State Building Shooting – Raising The Stakes In Workplace Violence

August 24, 2012 in Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals

The shooting this morning near the Empire State Building reminds me of a recent conversation that I had with a former San Diego police officer about watching a fight unfold right in front of you.  Many people have had the experience at some point in their lives, and if you ask people about it, they can tell you all about what happened before the fight broke out.  They talk about the aggressive person getting into the face of the person they are about to fight.  They talk about the aggressive person taking off his shirt or hat before the fight begins.  They bring up the fact that they watched the aggressive person approaching or running at the person he was about to strike. And they bring up every other pre-fight action you could image.

Rarely do they ever stop the fight from happening.  Why not?  The common answer is usually because they weren’t the one about to get punched.  There was no risk to them, so why intervene?  Intervening could be dangerous.  Right?

This morning’s shooting was a Workplace Violence related attack Continue reading »

Reacting To Dominance – Finding Submissiveness and Discomfort

July 29, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Groups, Assessing Individuals

(Note** The original video referenced in this blog post is no longer available for view.  We believe the content of the post remains relevant, but do apologize for any confusion.)

It is not uncommon for a group of people to have one person that fills a dominant role in the group. Whether this be a respected and acknowledged of elected leader or a person that wants to be seen as the leader and attempts to assert their authority over the other people through force of will.

Identifying this relationship can provide a great deal of insight into the group because we can observe how the other group members respond to the blatant attempts at dominance.  Do they recognize the threat and respond with dominance right back (fight the threat)?  Do they recognize the threat and become clearly uncomfortable (flight from the threat)?  Or do they recognize the threat and simply submit, letting the dominant person do whatever they want?  Identifying the pre-set patterns that the members of the group execute in the face of dominance can help Marines predict the future actions of people.

Watch this video clip taken from A&E’s Beyond Scared Straight series (NOTEnot every swear word is bleeped out, so this might not be appropriate for the office).  The Dominance that the two prison inmates are showing is pretty clear, so I’m not going to waste your time and discuss those, but the file folders that we do want to build on are those that show how people respond to that clear and obvious threat.  Continue reading »

Updates To The Clusters

July 28, 2012 in Assessing Individuals

In order to answer some questions posed by some readers, we have updated the “Dominant vs. Submissive” Cluster as well as the “Uncomfortable vs. Comfortable” Cluster in order to provide a little bit more explanation into the “why” behind the clusters.

By understanding that the characteristics of the “Dominant” Cluster are a result of a person’s fight response, and that “Submissive” cues are an absence of the fight response, observers can be more accurate in applying these observations in a variety of contexts.  By knowing that the driving force behind a classification of “Uncomfortable” is the body’s flight response and the unconscious ways we either create greater separation or protect ourselves from a threat, we will be able to make those classifications more quickly and accurately.  By seeing that “Comfortable” cues are the absence of the fight or flight response, that no threat has been perceived by the person, we will be able to establish individual baselines and notice changes at a higher level.

So check out those posts.  Understanding individuals is the foundation that we build from in behavioral analysis and without being able to quickly and accurately identify the people in those different mental or emotional states, our follow-on observations might be off as well.

Pamela Meyer – TED Talk About Finding The Truth

July 3, 2012 in Assessing Individuals, Learning About Learning


We don’t spend a great deal of time on the site focusing on Deception Detection, but it is a skill that should be considered for every interaction that you have, especially in your professional (security) related conversations. Bad information leads to bad decisions and learning to spot the cues that the person you are talking to might be hiding something can be the difference between succeeding or failing in your task.  Watch the video and see why Pamela Meyer is on our recommended reading list.

If you are interested in her great book, Lie Spotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, you can pick it up from Amazon here.

Want to see other books that we have read and recommend? Take a look at our complete reading list for our other suggestions.

The Clusters Have Been Updated

June 12, 2012 in Assessing Individuals

We have gone through the 6 different clusters that we use to define a person’s body language and expanded the possible behaviors that you can use classify the people you are observing.  The more you practice identifying these clusters will allow you to quickly establish baselines for individuals as well as notice the subtle changes in that can alert you to shifts in their moods and intentions.

To see the updated information, follow the links:

Dominant vs. Submissive Cluster

Uncomfortable vs. Comfortable Cluster

Interested vs. Uninterested Cluster

Some gestures bridge the gap across clusters and can fit into multiple clusters.  Continually look for three indicators that lead you to the same conclusion and determine if that gesture fits the baseline.  Finding creative ways to train yourself to identify these will allow you build the file folders you need to become an effective profiler.

Who Is Aware Of Their Surroundings – Uncovering Good Guys And Bad Guys

April 6, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

There are three types of people in the world: good guys, bad guys, and the clueless.  The working assumption is that most people in our society are clueless.  They are the people driving the speed limit in the left lane on the highway and unaware that there is a line of cars behind them wanting to pass.  They are the people walking down the middle of the sidewalk or through the mall with their face buried in their cell phone as they send text messages, unaware that they are walking slowly, swerving and making it difficult for people to get around them.  They are the people on the sidewalk who just stop walking to look at something without moving to the side and getting out of everyone else’s way.  This is most of the population.  Most people are comfortably condition white.  This is the baseline.

Good guys and bad guys are a little different.  Actually they are a lot different.  Continue reading »

Finding Dominant Behavior

March 30, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

As we look at our environment and all of the people surrounding us, we need to be capable of quickly and accurately classifying their behavior into at least one of our 6 primary clusters.

In this video, the punk kid is doing everything he can to posture and hopefully intimidate the guy in the black shirt into submission.  Posturing falls into the Dominance Cluster and can be identified by making yourself look larger, taking up more space around you, and demonstrating ownership (or territoriality) over nearby objects.

The kid in this video shows a number of Dominant characteristics: Continue reading »

From The Horse’s Mouth – A Conversation With Joe Navarro

March 21, 2012 in Assessing Individuals

Recently I got to have a short conversation with Joe Navarro, author of What Every Body Is Saying, which you will find at the top of our recommended reading list.  Whenever possible, we want to put you in touch with information direct from the experts in their field to give you unfiltered information and there are a couple things from the conversation that I wanted to pass on to you.  Continue reading »

Finding Valid Information – How Profiling Can Assist Census Operations

March 13, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

I was reading a blog post on the Marine Corps Gazette site last week (the link to the post is embedded in the image) that was written about the difficulty Marines have while gathering census data while deployed.  The challenge is simple to understand because there can be a significant financial reward to local villagers who can successfully convince Marines that funding their cause is in our best interest.

“A single consistency I could draw from the book was that any Afghan in a position of power saw the international community as a source of income for their own patronage networks. Village chiefs, businessmen, and ambitious young men all told different stories to various aid agencies and organizations to direct the flow of aid money.”  – Joe Davidoski (author of blog post) (blog link)

So how can understanding profiling and understanding human behavior help Marines who are responsible for gathering information from local villagers? Continue reading »

Ending A Speech With The “Steeple Gesture” – And Killing It

March 9, 2012 in Applying The Observations, Assessing Individuals

In February of 2004 Malcolm Gladwell, gave an 18-minute speech on spaghetti sauce at a TED Conference that blew away the audience and then went viral on the web.  We know that non-verbal communication plays a huge role in delivering a break-through performance, but what did Malcolm Gladwell do that separated him from the other speakers?  It was only partly because he impressed them verbally with a well researched and thought out delivery, but can also be seen in how he ends his speech. Continue reading »

A Look At Pacifying Behaviors – Uncovering Uncomfortable People

March 7, 2012 in Assessing Individuals

Everyone gets nervous from time to time. It is an unavoidable fact of life that there will be moments when you feel uneasy or anxious.  However, finding the person that is nervous is only half of the battle. It is making the determination whether that behavior fits the baseline or not that is the real challenge.

In this post we discuss ways to find people who are acting uncomfortably.  By identifying pacifying behavior, we can gain a bit of insight into the mind of those we are watching, and begin to determine why this guy is displaying pacifying behavior.

First, let’s establish the context for this picture, because a picture is only one moment in time and doesn’t always reflect the true situation. Continue reading »

It Was How Big? – Understanding the Expression of Surprise

February 23, 2012 in Assessing Individuals

While overhearing a question like that will probably make for a great eavesdropping experience, that isn’t the type of surprise we are talking about.  We are not surprised when something unfolds slowly in front of us, for surprise to be real “It must be sudden, and we must be unprepared” (Ekman, Emotions Revealed, 149).  What separates this emotion from the others that we have talked about, is that it only stays on the face for an extremely short amount of time, usually no more than a couple seconds at most. Continue reading »