Making a Murderer: Mike Halbach talks to the media; what is he hiding?
We've written about the one sided shoulder shrug before when we analysed Trump's nonverbal behaviour. In short it's meaning is that we don't have confidence in the words we speak. Get ready for many examples of a one sided shoulder shrug in this blog, because the Making a Murderer TV show was bursting with them! These were mainly from the side of the prosecution, in the case against Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. I'm pretty sure that by the time we've shared some of these examples, you'll be experienced enough to start to noticing this interesting nonverbal cue in others.
One Sided Shoulder Shrug
The one sided shoulder shrug is a clear signal that the speaker is not confident in their own words. The shrug takes place as the words are being spoken, or at the end of the sentence. On the other hand, a full shoulder shrug (both shoulders) indicates the speaker is confident in their words. For example, saying, “I don’t know”, with a one sided shoulder shrug, means there’s more to it and the speaker is potentially withholding information. Saying the same line with a full shoulder shrug, indicates the speaker really doesn’t know. It can be either subtle or pronounced.
Do not take this as a lying cue per se, it’s simply an indicator of lack of confidence in their spoken words.
Mike Halbach Talks to the Media
Mike Halbach, Teresa Halbach's brother, displays some curious behaviours throughout the series. What is he hiding? Is he involved, somehow, in the cover up, or is it something more sinister than that? Below are three cues that indicate that something is amiss, a one sided shoulder shrug, a tongue jut and hidden hands.
Watch the video from 1:37 minutes into the clip, where Mike Halbach approaches, then talks to, the media. You can alter the video settings to slow down the clip, so that you can spot the one sided shoulder shrug more easily. In this snippet we see many shoulder shrugs; all but one of them are full shoulder shrugs (both shoulders). Remember the difference between the meanings:
One sided shoulder shrug; not confident in words
Full shoulder shrug; confident in words
In terms of clues to deception, we are interested in the one sided shoulder shrug, because we are looking for misalignment between verbal and nonverbal communication.
It's a bit difficult to hear in places, and at times he seems to slur his words- possibly making a false start on his sentences (a red flag in itself). Starting from when we can see him, this is what he says; verbally and nonverbally:
"He [Steven Avery] certainly has to blame it on someone else, but um (full shoulder shrug), I mean it (false start), he, he chooses (possible one sided shoulder shrug, we're discounting this one as it's unclear) the Manitowoc County Police. I don't believe (full shoulder) that one bit. Um... All (one sided shoulder shrug) the evidence I know about, and that evidence that all the references presented today, obviously, are leaning to him." (this looks a bit like a one sided shoulder shrug, however, I think he raises his arm to gesture, which is causing the shrug, so we're discounting this one).
Let's isolate the statement that he says, but doesn't believe:
"All the evidence I know about, and that evidence that all the references presented today, obviously, are leaning to him."
Words and body language are misaligned. Here lies a red flag. This is an area in which to investigate further.
At 1:51 Mike Halbach does a tongue jut. Just after saying, "I don't believe that one bit. Um...".
We slightly jut out our tongue when either, we feel like we've got away with something, we’ve just been caught or we’ve made a mistake. The tongue quickly juts out and then retracts. This subtle cue can easily be confused with lip licking. Lip licking is a self soothing, or pacifying, behaviour in which we try to bring comfort to ourselves by licking our lips. Like with other self soothing gestures, lip licking increases with stress.
Hidden Hands; Deceitful and Untrustworthy
There's one more interesting cue here that we'd like to point out:
Note that for most of the duration of this snippet, Mike Halbach has his hands behind his back. Our hands are our biggest trust indicators and when can't see someone's hands, we perceive them as being deceitful and untrustworthy. Generally, when people are being upfront and honest about something, they usually have their hands on display with palms open. Hands hidden behind the back, nonverbally says, 'leave me alone' or 'don't come near me'.