By Temma Ehrenfeld, Newsweek, June 9, 2008
When James J. Newberry started doing police work in California 30 years ago, questioning suspects often amounted to one thing: tossing the guy against the wall. “I decided there had to be a kinder, gentler way,” he says. Newberry began studying the faces of the people he was interrogating. He got so good at picking liars from truth tellers that psychologist Paul Ekman, of the University of California, San Francisco, began studying Newberry in the late ’80s. His talent, it turned out, was for detecting those faint or fleeting expressions in a suspect’s face that seemed inconsistent with what he was saying or other clues. Ekman called them “microexpressions.”
Since then, Ekman has been teaching law-enforcement officers how to catch microexpressions and has written a book about them–“Emotions Revealed.” He even trained Newberry to get perfect scores recognizing liars on videotape. Now the U.S. Defense Department and the CIA are funding work to incorporate Ekman’s research into software that would analyze facial movements captured by digital cameras. Terry Sejnowski, a neurobiologist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, wants to develop an airport-security system that in a few years could notify airport workers of peculiarities around your lips (suppressed anger, perhaps?) while you’re answering questions.