What is a “behavior detection officer” and why do we suddenly need them in U.S. airports? These are good questions posed by Patti Davis in Newsweek online this week:

“Specially trained security personnel” will be watching passengers for “micro-expressions” that will reveal treacherous agendas and insidious intentions at airports around the country.

The problem? Well, searching for the term “micro-expressions” (and permutations of that phrase) in both MEDLINE and PsycINFO show little scientific evidence that this is a respected area of research. In fact, in my search, I could only find two citations related to this area, one of which wasn’t a study, but rather a book chapter. (The other involved people diagnosed with schizophrenia, a serious mental disorder.)

There is, however, a great deal of research showing how lousy humans are at detecting others who are lying, especially through the exclusive use of nonverbal cues.

I’m sorry, but as much as I’d like to be “protected” by my government, I also want them to use scientifically-proven techniques in doing so, especially in the area of human behavior. This isn’t one of them.

 


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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Aug 2007
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2007). Behavior Detection Officers at U.S. Airports. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2007/08/18/behavior-detection-officers-at-us-airports/

 

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