Ms. Couric asked Mr. Rodriguez if he had ever been tempted to use illegal drugs. He answered with a simple “No” accompanied by what might be a microfear expression, according to Dr. Ekman – a horizontal stretching of the lips that is often an effort to conceal fearfulness.
“The fear of being disbelieved is the same as fear of being caught,” Dr. Ekman said. “He is afraid that we’re not going to believe it.”
Mr. Rodriguez’s lips stretch in a similar way when he talks of his disappointment with the report.
What I find most interesting about these invisibly quick facial expressions is that people can be trained to perceive them. (Ekman has worked with the C.I.A. and F.B.I., and currently sells a microexpression training tool.) One of the things I learned while hanging out with professional poker players for my book is that the pros rarely have obvious tells or tics. They’ve learned how to hide and obscure their underlying emotions. (In fact, an obvious display of nervousness is usually interpreted as a form of play acting, which suggests that the player actually has a good hand.) And yet, pro poker players still believe that, when it comes to the interpretation of someone else’s anxieties, they can make reasonably accurate guesses, even if they can’t explain where these guesses come from. In other words, the players believe that their unconscious brain is constantly picking up the microexpressions of deceit, which allows them to act upon relevant information outside of conscious awareness. When players talk about developing a “feel” for the card game, what they’re often referring to is this ability to read the mind of someone else, even when that person is doing everything possible to hide their mind. We know more than we know, and part of what we know is that even the best liars have subtle tells.