[NetBehaviour] Software spots the spin in political speeches.

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Fri Sep 19 11:17:39 CEST 2008

Software spots the spin in political speeches

 From New Scientist.
Stu Hutson.

BLINK and you would have missed it. The expression of disgust on former 
US president Bill Clinton's face during his speech to the Democratic 
National Convention as he says "Obama" lasts for just a fraction of a 
second. But to Paul Ekman it was glaringly obvious.

"Given that he probably feels jilted that his wife Hillary didn't get 
the nomination, I would have to say that the entire speech was actually 
given very gracefully," says Ekman, who has studied people's facial 
expressions and how they relate to what they are thinking for over 40 years.

It seems that Clinton's micro-expression gave away more about his true 
feelings than he intended. Politicians do not usually give themselves 
away so tellingly, and many of us would like to know whether they mean 
what they are saying. So how are we to know when they are lying?

Technology is here to help. Software programs that analyse a person's 
speech, voice or facial expressions are building upon the work of 
researchers like Ekman to help us discover when the truth is being 
stretched, and even by how much. "The important thing to recognise is 
that politicians aren't typically good at out-and-out lies, but they are 
very adept at dancing around the truth," says David Skillicorn, a 
mathematics and computer science researcher at Queen's University in 
Kingston, Ontario, Canada. "The 2008 election has so far given us plenty 
of chances to see them in action."


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