France to train benefit officials in detecting lies through applicants' facial expressions

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French social security officials are to be given classes in lie detection to prevent fraud, estimated to cost the state billions of pounds a year.

They will be trained to assess whether people applying for family allowances, disability benefits or pensions are lying from their body language, facial expressions and changes in their tone of voice.

A budget of €749,999 (£675,275) has been set aside for the first year of classes, to be based on the methods of Paul Ekman, an American psychologist and scientific adviser to the US television crime drama Lie To Me. 

The French Social Security System, which covers health, pensions, disability and family allowances, is advertising for instructors who will train staff to “conduct interviews and hearings capable of characterising fraud… to detect lies in verbal and written claims and to know how to decipher non-verbal communication”.

Small classes of eight to 12 trainees will receive two or three days of instruction. 

They will be taught to spot micro-expressions, which last about a 25th of a second, such as tiny, involuntary shakes of the head, indicating no, while the interviewee is verbally saying yes.

Another possible ‘tell’ is an unexplained pause before answering a question that does not require reflection. 



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