Nonverbal Behaviours Used in Criminal Investigation


Nonverbal Behaviours Used in Criminal Investigation

In communication, various techniques of conveying messages are used by different individuals. The non-verbal communication is used variedly to convey feelings and emotions between the parties participating in the communication. It involves nonverbal stimuli in a given setting that is brought out by the person speaking and the surrounding and it has very potential information for the listener. It is basically the form of sending and receiving the intended message. In courts, they are taken in close consideration in examining and evaluating subjects and thus, are used by the subjects directly to represent fight or flight survival. Different nonverbal used to convey messages are discussed below.


The posture made individuals communicates various messages either good or shows one’s level of attention and involvement, status difference and the closeness that the communicator has with the person. When a person sits or stands away from the communicator and tries not to get closer to each other it signifies negative sentiment during communication since the person is protecting himself/herself from the communicator. The type of clothing the one wears shows the personality, mood, confidence, and identity. The subjects may wear certain clothing to hide their personality and express the emotions of anger or happiness and certain colors of clothing are worn by the subjects to show the danger and to defend themselves (Inbau, 2014).

Gestures made with different body parts shows the intention of an individual in a given environment. Gestures are significantly important in different contexts and they can be an offensive or defensive mechanism. The facial expression is a practical way of communicating. When one is defending oneself it can be seen on the forehead, the jaw movement, the movements of the eyes and the mouth. When one is not at ease the head stiffens the narrowing of the eyes among others (Becker, & Dutelle, 2013).

Human beings are very noble in reasoning and faculty, the minds are finite and understanding the mind limits helps to boost the reasoning ability of a person. It begins with one’s memory, the ability to store information and also is prone to difficulty in retrieving the information. Despaired and faulty memories lead to false testimony and witness of event occurrence. It leads to imprisonment that is not genuine, overlooked judgment and also death. Human minds retrieve information by using nonverbal cues that may be misinterpreted. Human beings are not good at dealing with probability and are reflected in the language that is used where the words reveal the level of probability. The emotional reactions due to fear and current occurrence vary and this reaction shows the possible implication on the healing of the human lives. Weakness is seen when an expression of uncertainty is seen (Becker, & Dutelle, 2013).

The nature and nurturing of thinking help in recognizing the existence and the importance of learning the individual instincts that when critically taken into consideration will enable the understanding of the level of deception and honesty by the subjects. Humans are unique and this defines the power of the notions and perception of events. When the notion is acceptable to the individuals it restores their ability to read the level of honesty and deception exposed by an individual. Intelligent life enables the self-awareness and the ability to give information that is acceptable and enables survival in extreme conditions.

To dominate the instincts and suppress fear, serious training is essential for it helps to improve the social relation with others and the language used during communication. The power of reason is essential in the giving of messages by different persons. Different reasoning and ability to communicate is the healing power that is exhibited by individuals will boost the understanding of the underlying deception or truth (Inbau,2014].

Various signals made by the body parts have different meanings and are very important in relying on the information. The investigators can be in a position to take close observations of the signals and acquire information from the subject. The head positioning varies depending on the situations. The positive emotions are exposed by the loose furrow lines on the individual forehead when one is relaxed and is at ease the head is always tilted sideways, and the neck is openly exposed. When tensed and suspicious, always the head is stiff and the neck is hidden.

Facial expressions

Facial expressions can convey important information required in an investigation, since it the most practical way of conveying messages, human faces has very many expressions and is efficient and honest in showing emotions. The tightening of the jaws, squinting of the eyes, furrow lines on the forehead show suspicion and negative emotion, while wide eyes relaxed muscles on the faces and loose furrow lines reveals the positive emotion of the subject (Becker, & Dutelle, 2013).

The movement of the nose can also be used to capture information. When the nose is wide open and the nose muscles tighten it indicates tension while, on the other hand, relaxed nose muscles and loosened nostrils shows relaxed mood and positive emotions. The mouth muscles also communicate a lot, when the mouth muscles are relaxed and the lips move slowly exposed openly the positive emotions are exposed. In contrast, tight jaw muscles and hidden lips show tension in the subject. Also, eyes are important in conveying messages, the squinting of the eyes shows anger or suspicion and the widening of eyes shows relaxation and comfort.

Moreover, raising of shoulders, crossed arms and tighten elbows indicates discomfort and vice versa when the hands are clutched tightly together and continuous rubbing reveals tension while relaxed hands freely hanging or placed on the lap shows relaxed mood and emotion. Leg movements if observed can also give information, the scrubbing of feet on the ground, crossing of legs and bending of knees clearly shows fear and discomfort while relaxed legs and flat knees display relaxation and positive feeling and emotions. (Inbau, 2014).

During investigation and acquisition of information, the subjects always tend to defend themselves using several defensive mechanisms. There are various defense zones used by different people; they include the personal space, intimate zones, and proxemics zones among others. Different cultures have varied physical closeness level depending on the type of the situation that one is in. When one violates the require distance, subjects may be uncomfortable and defensive. The personal space of an individual is called proxemics.

It is divided into four different classes; the intimate, personal, social and public distances. The intimate distance is rated on the close contact of touching. It is considered to be appropriate for privacy and getting involved in other persons, not of a close relationship is very disturbing to the subject. Attacking one on the basis of their personal state enables the interrogator to get the hidden identity of an individual (Kocsis, 2009).

The personal distance is conducive for individuals having a conversation. It becomes easier to see and read the subject’s expressions, the movement of the eyes and generally the body language. Handshaking possibly occurs in the personal distances and this enables the knowledge of one’s feeling and response. He interference are brought in the feelings of a person can be seen if directly or indirectly attacked. The social distance is the normal distance in the working environment and social groups. The seating arrangement also influences the response to be given by an individual, some may show dominion and authority over others and formal relationship between the communicators.

Eye contact

Eye contact and loud speech are essential to draw the attention and sufficient feedback is gained. Crossing the line of the formal interaction may lead to ending the communication but if approached positively, attacking the zone lead the respondent to give honest information. In public distances, non-verbal communication is exaggerated for effective communication, hand gestures are widely used and mainly involves the communication between strangers. The rate of closeness is limited and therefore, the subjects are approached with respect to win the emotions and feelings. It helps in approaching others without threats and appropriately (Becker, & Dutelle, 2013).

The nonverbal cues are very important informative behaviors that affect the social relation of different persons. The nonverbal cues shown by an individual is subject to a true or false interpretation that may result in misunderstandings. The cues emitted by an individual may support or contradict the words spoken by a person. It can be deceptive or express acceptance by the respondents. The acceptance level varies depending on the environment and the information is acquired.

Attention should be paid to acquire the correct relation of words and body language, also one’s instincts should be trusted since it helps to know the honesty and the effectiveness of the messages collected. Critical evaluation of the nonverbal signs will help to know the level of acceptance from the person. The eye contact made between the parties is a clear indication to understanding acceptance if consistent eye contact is maintained, it should be over right with relaxed eye muscles and open eyebrows (Kocsis, 2009).

The facial expressions made may scare someone or welcome them for conversation. The loosened and relaxed face and jaw muscles, smiles on the face, exposed lips and emotional presence accompanied by a lot of interest from the person indicates warmth and positive emotion. The tone of the voices made can project warmth, confidence, trust, and the interest of the individual. A soft voice accompanied with laughter and no strains display the comfort of the respondent. The relaxed body, sloping shoulders, relaxed hand and leg positioning are the postures and gestures that give a go-ahead in communication; it shows the comfort and relaxed emotions of a person.

Closeness and the distance between the communicating parties reveal an acceptance, when there is physical contact in the appropriate situation and both persons are comfortable radiance of warmth is transmitted during communication. Mirroring displays interest and acceptance between persons and it gives assurance to others of interest in their communication and what they intend to say. It shows the reflection of the people closely related if one person frowns and is disinterested it is reflected on the facial expressions made. The interrogator can take advantage of the positive reception to acquire true and honest information. (Inbau, 2014).

Stress is a response made physically to the occurrence of events that are threatening and upsetting the body balance. When danger is sensed the body develop defenses as the fight or flight response for survival and protection. It helps one to come across a challenge and sharpens the concentration of a person. There are various forms of stress signals exhibited in different persons they include; the physical signals, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional signals among others. The cognitive signal is exhibited by factors and signs such as memory problem.


One is unable to clearly recall information and they tend to be forgetful. Moreover, one has the inability to concentrate on certain activities such as conversation; minimal concentration clearly shows the stress that one is going through. Poor judgment of information is also seen and the person seems to concentrate more only on the negative side of messages, anxiety is expressed and a lot of thoughts race in the person’s mind. One is constantly worried about the situation and lead life with frustrations (Kocsis, 2009).

The emotional signals are read from one’s feelings and emotions. It is identified by observing the mood swings of a person, a stressed person always tends to be sad and at times happy.  Also, when one is stressed they are easily irritated and are short-tempered that’s they are easily annoyed and cannot hold the emotions. Agitation and difficulty to be relaxed the person are constantly strained and they tend to think a lot and they are restricted to certain conditions. In addition, the person appears to be constantly unhappy and depressed; the feeling of loneliness and isolation is experienced. Lastly, the behavioral change is seen when one is stressed, eating and sleeping too much or less, isolation from others, avoiding and neglecting responsibilities, excess use of alcohol or drugs to relax and nervousness is seen (Kocsis, 2009).



Becker, R. F., & Dutelle, A. W. (2013). Criminal investigation. Burlington, Mass: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Inbau, F. E. (2014). Essentials of the Reid Technique: Criminal Interrogation and Confessions.

Kocsis, R. N. (2009). Applied Criminal Psychology: A Guide to Forensic Behavioral Sciences.

Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher, LTD.



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