A former FBI agent analyzes the body language of infamous mobsters

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/12/a-former-fbi-agent-analyzes-th.html


I wonder if he can read this extremely skeptical look I’m giving his entire field of “science.”


What could it mean that he’s pulling up his sock?

That… his sock slipped down?


People in stressful situations show signs of stress.
People in hard wooden chairs may cross their arms.
People who have socks may pull them up.

Crap! It’s only a matter of time before that G-Man comes for me.


Man, I wanted to watch that and be enthralled and all I got was a wrinkled brow at the odor of horse sh!t. Really? You are going to take a few snap shots and come to those conclusions? Just like the other poster said… “perhaps his sock slipped down”… or “perhaps he’s self hugging because he’s embarrassed that he forgot to put on a belt that day and you know… not wearing a belt is embarrassing.” Or perhaps, “You just cracked a joke that is so bad that I’m going to keep as straight a face for this picture as I possibly can”. Or, “I was making wild facial gesticulations but you took 30 pictures and one of them catches me in a serendipitous sober split moment”.

The idea of taking ANY picture and coming up with reasons for the positions and facial expressions of the subjects is just ludicrous.


Let’s see.
One Of Bugsy Siegel, one of Dillinger, one of Luciano . . then 3 of Mickey Cohen?




In this Wired video, he explains the body language and facial expressions of mobsters like Bugsy Siegel, Mickey Cohen, and John Dillinger, and any person affiliated with the Mob Boss Donny Two Burgers criminal org.



Don’t forget the all-important (because self-incriminating) “self-hug with flag,” as seen here:


He’s wipe’n his filthy hands on the flag, that’s what I see.


Fixed that for ya


Don’t forget they’re tiny filthy hands!


You know, maybe there is such a thing as an FBI body language expert, who the heck knows. The most charitable thing I can think of is that this guy is showing a kindergarten-level version of the discipline so that everyone will laugh it off and the Bad Guys won’t learn to alter their body language, and they’ll all get caught. Wired magazine is really scraping the barrel with this stuff.

1 Like

The FBI isn’t using some next level scientific observations, they’re using outdated “science” that’s been shown in research that it isn’t any better than the flip of a coin. Its the same for “hand writing analysis”, “criminal profiles”, lie detectors, etc, etc. A lot of these things people take as fact is the opposite of reality.

I do think that people assume certain behavior when stressed, uncomfortable, etc but there’s a lot of factors that could cause someone to behave in a particular way. Its very easy to read too far into something that isn’t there.


Seriously! I have seen him do some good stuff (particularly with poker tells). But this particular video is garbage. He enlightens us that: Bugsy Seigel is “a sociopath / narcissist” because he’s wearing a fashionable sports jacket. That criminals being photographed for mugshots often don’t look happy. That someone pulling up his socks can only be pulling up his socks for an ulterior motive.

C’mon Joe, I know you can do better: the “steeple pose” of your hands and “open” body language of your legs communicate this amply.


Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that everything he says in this presentation is totally accurate. How is this applicable to law enforcement? Either you have actionable evidence or you don’t. Can you use this to identify the perpetrator of a crime who’s not a well known historical figure?

90% of body language coaching is a scam. I learned this from a compulsive “communication seminary”, our management sent my team to, where we were told that 90% of ALL communication is ALWAYS body language, REPEAT after me until you believe it… We are an IT company where 90% of communications are per mail or app

That’s why we have emoticons—smiley faces et al.—because the body language is missing from text-only messages. Exclamation points, all-caps, italics—those, too, stand in for body language.

Punctuation and formatting are a part of language, which work very well without a body. And we don’t really use emoticons in our business communications, but of course other businesses could have a different culture

Most importantly to me, to people who insist, despite my objections, to care 9x less about what I have to say, then about how I posture while I say it, I say:

Thanks for your reply!

Well, I’d say the video in the OP here wasn’t too terrific (IMO), and I have no idea what you were told in what sounds like a tedious workplace presentation, so I’m certainly not defending them.

I do think, based on my own life-long observation and experience, that most of us (or at least most neuro-typicals, I suppose might be better to say?) have a sort of “native speaker” understanding of body language that we mostly don’t even think about or realize that we have—somewhat like a fish in water, we’re just always surrounded by it. It seems to me that most of us know a lot more about non-verbal communication than we may realize that we do, or more than we give ourselves credit for knowing.

Just for a rough example—Say you had planned to ask your boss for a raise today, but when they came in to work this morning, before they even said a word you knew this wasn’t a good day to ask for a raise. How did you know? Maybe it was something in the way they hung up their coat, or slammed the door, or had a scowl on their face—you could tell they were angry/distracted/annoyed about something, without them saying a word to you. (Or maybe you knew immediately that they were really happy about something that happened outside of work—because of their big grin and exuberant manner—and so you knew not to ask for the raise right now, because you could tell they were preoccupied with something else—even before they said anything to you with words.). So you held on to your request until a day when the boss might be more receptive to your bid for their attention. Congratulations! You just used your own knowledge of body language to your advantage :smiley:

Mind you, I’m not trying to talk as an expert on the subject or anything. It’s just something I’ve paid attention to over the years and thought about. I’ve always been interested (completely non-professionally) in language and communication. And I’ve always been one to “pick up on” what kind of mood other people are in, and I think body language has a lot to do with that.

I don’t put much stock in the idea of consciously trying to manipulate others by manipulating our body language, but I do think there are many ways we do so without necessarily thinking about it. Say you’re picking up a date at their house for the first time—after you ring the doorbell, you naturally straighten your posture a bit because you want to make a good impression. Even if you’ve been feeling sad, you put a smile on your face. That’s manipulating your own body language, in hopes of affecting someone else’s evaluation of you.

I do put a lot more stock in the idea that we take in a LOT of information that isn’t in the words themselves.

Again, though, I’m not a professional linguist or anything. Just sharing my own observations and ideas I’ve picked up reading here and there.