TSA Is Terrible at Reading Body Language


Everyone kind of sucks at reading body language, but TSA definitely sucks at it, considering they’ve spent almost $1 billion dollars training their officers to keep a look out for people whose body language might divulge criminal intentions (or those who, you know, look like terrorists.) The whole caricature of a shifty-eyed, nervous wreck, whose body simply cannot bear holding in such a juicy and terrible secret doesn’t exactly hold up in face of some cold numbers. Via the New York Times:

“In those studies, people correctly identified liars only 47 percent of the time, less than chance. Their accuracy rate was higher, 61 percent, when it came to spotting truth tellers, but that still left their overall average, 54 percent, only slightly better than chance. Their accuracy was even lower in experiments when they couldn’t hear what was being said, and had to make a judgment based solely on watching the person’s body language.”

Oh, and:

“It noted that fewer than 1 percent of the more than 30,000 passengers a year who are identified as suspicious end up being arrested, and that the offenses (like carrying drugs or undeclared currency) have not been linked to terrorist plots.”

You mean, a theory popularized by movies like The Negotiator, might not actually be accurate? Strange. It’s unsettling to know that staple security filters like (simply looking out for a Nervous Nancy and blindly racial profiling) are pretty ineffective. So what do we do now? Make people pinky promise not to be terrorists?

Image via AP.

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