Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2231:
A Common Facial Expression of Mass Killers -
Using Body Language as a Threat Assessment Tool

Adam Lanza, the mass murder in Friday's tragedy a Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is shown above in a low resolution photo. Nonverbally, notice how very widely his eyelids are opened. This eyelid configuration is not universal among mass killers (e.g., neither Jacob Roberts, the killer in the recent Clackamas Oregon Mall shooting, nor Seung-Hui Cho of the Virginia Tech Tragedy have any published images with similar expressions). And certainly all those who display this "White and Wide Stare" are not destined to be killers. Moreover, there are medical causes which occasionally cause this appearance (e.g. Hyperthyroidism). However it's very peculiar and instructive to note how often this facial expression-body language is seen among these disturbed and violent individuals when compared to the general population (with no known medical cause). While everyone may occasionally make this face, consistent display is highly suspicious for sociopathic or psychopathic behavior.

When the central forehead is also contracted along with such widely opened eyes - and displayed chronically - this should send a loud alarm. Steer clear of these individuals, for there is a significantly greater chance dangerous behavior (not visible in all of these images in this post).

How do you assess for threats? Do you have a systematic and objective way of sizing up a person or persons who may be threatening? Nonverbal assessment should be a skill/tool you rely on when evaluating dangerous scenarios.

James Holmes, the shooter in the recent "Batman" mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado is pictured in the below. It was taken during his preliminary court hearing. Note how widely his eyelids are opened.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2229: President Obama and a Body Language Signal of  Holding Back Grief, Tears & other Negative Emotions


Ted Bundy, a mass serial killer of at least thirty people is pictured below. His upper eyelids are also opened extra-widely.

Marshall Applewhite (below) although not a mass-murderer in the usual context, in 1997 led/brainwashed 39 people to their deaths through suicide - the largest mass-suicide on U.S. soil in history. Applewhite has this same "eyes white and wide" appearance.

While his eyelids demonstrate a slightly more subtle example, Jared Loughner (below) killed six people and wounding 14 (including then U.S. House of Representative member, Gabrielle Giffords) in a mass shooting (Tucson) in January of 2011.