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The Analysis of Nonverbal Communication: The Dangers of Pseudoscience in Security and Justice Contexts

Review article
Authors Vincent Denault
Pierrich Plusquellec
Louise M. Jupe
Michel St-Yves
Norah E. Dunbar
Maria Hartwig
Siegfried L. Sporer
Jessica Rioux-Turcotte
Jonathan Jarry
Dave Walsh
Henry Otgaar
Andrei Viziteu
Victoria Talwar
David A. Keatley
Iris Blandón-Gitlin
Clint Townson
Nadine Deslauriers-Varin
Scott O. Lilienfeld
Miles L. Patterson
Igor Areh
Alfred Allan
Hilary Evans Cameron
Rémi Boivin
Leanne ten Brinke
Jaume Masip
Ray Bull
Mireille Cyr
Lorraine Hope
Leif Strömwall
Stephanie J. Bennett
Faisal Al Menaiya
Richard A. Leo
Annelies Vredeveldt
Marty Laforest
Charles R. Honts
Antonio L. Manzanero
Samantha Mann
Pär-Anders Granhag
Karl Ask
Fiona Gabbert
Jean-Pierre Guay
Alexandre Coutant
Jeffrey Hancock
Valerie Manusov
Judee K. Burgoon
Steven M. Kleinman
Gordon Wright
Sara Landström
Ian Freckelton
Zarah Vernham
Peter J. van Koppen
Published in Anuario de Psicología Jurídica
ISSN 1133-0740
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Pseudoscience, Nonverbal communication, SPOT, Behavior analysis interview, Synergology
Subject categories Applied Psychology


For security and justice professionals (e.g., police officers, lawyers, judges), the thousands of peer-reviewed articles on nonverbal communication represent important sources of knowledge. However, despite the scope of the scientific work carried out on this subject, professionals can turn to programs, methods, and approaches that fail to reflect the state of science. The objective of this article is to examine (i) concepts of nonverbal communication conveyed by these programs, methods, and approaches, but also (ii) the consequences of their use (e.g., on the life or liberty of individuals). To achieve this objective, we describe the scope of scientific research on nonverbal communication. A program (SPOT; Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques), a method (the BAI; Behavior Analysis Interview) and an approach (synergology) that each run counter to the state of science are examined. Finally, we outline five hypotheses to explain why some organizations in the fields of security and justice are turning to pseudoscience and pseudoscientific techniques. We conclude the article by inviting these organizations to work with the international community of scholars who have scientific expertise in nonverbal communication and lie (and truth) detection to implement evidence-based practices.

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