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Communications and terrorism expert speaks to students at WHS

posted Jun 6, 2018, 5:01 AM by Michael Richards
In May, an expert in communications and terrorism spoke about his work to a large group of Wells High School sophomores and others in the Olenn Auditorium.  In his lecture, Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication at the University of Buffalo, Mark G. Frank, Ph.D. focused on lying.   He showed video clips to demonstrate how a trained interviewer can detect when someone is lying through careful observation of subtle “micro” facial expressions and body language. 

But this is just one aspect of Dr. Frank’s research and teaching career.  He has a long list of accomplishments including training over 1,000 law enforcement agencies and being a founding member of the FBI's Terrorism Research and Analysis Project.   His research has been funded by The National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Several of the video clips shown were research videos featuring college students either truthfully answering questions or putting on an act to conceal lying in their answers.  Following the clips, Dr. Frank would ask the audience for a show of hands as to who they thought was lying.   

Sometimes deception in someone is not so easy to spot without the aid of technology.  One clip shown required Dr. Frank to freeze frame a segment of a video to reveal something startling that the casual viewer would miss.  At one point in a video deposition for a civil case that involved him, OJ Simpson is shown a photograph of himself wearing a pair of Bruno Magli shoes.  Buried in that split-second of deposition footage is a remarkable image of a wide-eyed and seemingly horrified Simpson as he discovers that he is waring that brand of shoes in the photo, shoes he indicated once that he would never wear, and a brand of shoes worn by the murderer in the 1994 murder of his wife and friend, a crime Simpson was acquitted of earlier in a criminal trial in Los Angeles.  

“It’s always important, I think, for students to understand how science ultimately gets deployed,” said Dr. Frank after his presentation.  He believes students need to understand how seemingly insignificant experiments such as researching facial expressions can ultimately lead to something major including apprehending terrorists.   He hopes presentations like this will help bring science to life for students so that they can make informed decisions when, as voting citizens, they are presented with choices about funding scientific research.

This presentation was planned by WHS social studies teacher Kevin O'Shaughnessy who commented later that student responses to the lecture were “very positive.”  “Dr. Frank is a real-life example of an expert that explains and trains law enforcement in techniques that help catch (terrorists) or prevent terrorist acts,” commented O’Shaughnessy who is a long-time friend of Dr. Frank.   O’Shaughnessy has hosted previous lectures by Dr. Frank in his AP Psychology class.  This lecture was held primarily for sophomores in World After 1945 classes taught by O’Shaughnessy and colleague Kristen Thompson.  That course includes a study unit on terrorism.                                          

“Students were genuinely interested in Dr. Frank's information on profiling,” commented social studies teacher Kristen Thompson. “They related to his sense of humor and were an involved audience. They particularly liked learning about the facial characteristics that indicate lying!”   

Terrorism speaker
At the lectern and in front of a power point collage of various infamous characters on May 17, 2018 is communications and terrorism expert Dr. Mark G. Frank of the University of Buffalo
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