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

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 ArehAlfred Allan, Hilary Evans Cameron, Rémi Boivin, Leanne Ten Brinke, Jaume Masip, Ray Bull, Mireille Cyr, Lorraine Hope, Leif A. 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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalAnuario de Psicologia Juridica
Issue number1
Early online date30 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Behavior analysis interview
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Pseudoscience
  • SPOT
  • Synergology


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