Homeland Security Airport


Security requires the accurate and rapid detection of threat.  Threats often involve people.  More specifically, people with deceptive intentions and angry emotional states are inherently threatening.  We’ve conducted several studies to understand how and how well observers can detect the motion and shape cues that angry and deceptive people spontaneously produce.   Our research has shown that typical observers are more sensitive to the presence of angry people than to the presence of happy, sad, fearful or neutral emotional state people (Chouchourelou et al., 2006a,b). This “threat advantage” also extends to angry shape cues in static pictures of the human body.  In these static shape studies, we’ve found that observers show an attentional bias such that their attention is drawn to static bodily postures depicting anger (Blanchard & Shiffrar, 2011).

We’ve also found that observers vary systematically in their visual sensitivity to angry human movements and that this variation can be easily assessed with a simple questionnaire (Kaiser & Shiffrar, 2008, 2011).  We’ve also found that observers can detect the intention to deceive in highly reduced point-light displays (Sebanz & Shiffrar, 2009).  Interestingly, this work also suggests that people with previous experience producing deceptive bodily actions are the best at detecting deceptive actions in others.  Finally, we’ve found that the ability to detect the presence of a hidden person depends upon the quality of the coincident sounds accompanying that hidden person’s actions (Thomas & Shiffrar, 2010). 


Chouchourelou, A., Matsuka, T., Harber, K., & Shiffrar, M. (2006). The visual analysis of emotional actions. Social Neuroscience, 1, 63-74. download pdf

Chouchourelou, A., Matsuka, T., Harber, K., & Shiffrar, M. (2006). Does emotion systematically influence visual perception? Visual Cognition, 14, 82-85. download pdf

Kaiser, M. & Shiffrar, M. (2008). Individual differences in perceptual sensitivity to emotional human motion. Visual Cognition, 16, 1115-1119. download pdf

Sebanz, N. & Shiffrar, M. (2009). Detecting deception in a bluffing body: The role of expertise. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 170-175. download pdf

Thomas, J. & Shiffrar, M. (2010). I can see you better if I can hear you coming: Action-consistent sounds facilitate the visual detection of human gait.  Journal of Vision, 10(12): 14. download pdf

Blanchard, A. & Shiffrar, M. (2011, May). Does the Threat Advantage Hypothesis Extend to Static Body Postures? Vision Sciences Society, Naples, FL. download pdf

Kaiser, M. D. & Shiffrar, M. (2011). Variability in the visual perception of human motion as a function of the observer’s autistic traits. In K. Johnson & M. Shiffrar (Eds). Visual perception of the human body in motion. Oxford University Press, in press. download pdf