Here's what body language experts thought of Jon Jones' Fox Sports interview
In the wake of Jon Jones’ Fox Sports interview Monday, in which he denied having a cocaine problem, many questioned the UFC light heavyweight champion's sincerity.
During the 13-minute one-on-one with Fox Sports Live host Charissa Thompson, Jones admitted to using cocaine at a party prior to the Dec. 4 drug test he failed. He also admitted to using cocaine and other recreational drugs in college, but unequivocally denied having a cocaine problem.
"I know I don't [have a problem]," Jones said. "There's no room in my life to be a cocaine addict."
It seems as though every fighter, blogger, pundit, and social media soapboxer who has seen the interview, whether they believe or doubt the honesty of Jones, is a self-proclaimed expert on behavior, body language, and deception.
Rather than pile on with our own hypothesis of what we feel Jones’ demeanor indicated, we instead brought in two actual leading experts in the field to watch and analyze the 13-minute interview below and share their unbiased expert opinion of how genuine Jones really was.
(Disclaimer: Both experts were also provided with the “off air” argument between Jones and Daniel Cormier, as well as other less crisis-fuelled interviews with Jones for comparison as neither was familiar with him prior to our consultation. They were consulted independently and did not discuss their findings with one another.)
Janine Driver is a former ATF agent and deception and body language training officer, and is the New York Times and international best selling author of "You Can’t Lie to Me". She is the current president of the Body Language Institute, which offers civilian training courses and consults for various law enforcement agencies, legal teams, and news agencies.
The following is Driver’s analysis of the video:
Red flag 1
“When [Jones] answers that, no, he did not use cocaine from the time he took the [positive] test to the fight, he responds with a strong denial. He says, ‘No. No, I did not.’ This is the best denial and is often heard from honest people,” Driver explains.” “However, we then see a smile. This is called ‘duping delight’ and this is indicative of someone who is being deceptive. This indicates to me there's something he's not saying here.”
Red flag 2
“When asked how often he's done cocaine, he responds that he experimented in college, "but that's really it, you know?" This is what we call ‘squishy language,’ and it's indicative that there's again something he's not saying,” Driver points out. “Instead [if he were being absolutely forthright] he should've simply said, ‘I experimented with cocaine in college,’ then stopped talking.”
Red flags 3 and 4
“When he said that the cocaine he has done was done, ‘Mainly just in college...’ Another deceptive red flag popped up. Both the words ‘mainly’ and ‘just’ indicate that there is more than what he's telling us. Plus, then he does a shoulder shrug, which means he’s uncertain. If he's telling us the truth, what's he uncertain about?”
Red flags 5 and 6
“When again asked by the reporter, other than in college, this one time before the fight is the only time he had used cocaine, [Jones] responded, ‘Yeah, pretty much…’ This is more "squishy language" and it indicates he's not giving us the whole truth,” Driver says. “He also does an eyebrow flash here, which indicates surprise. What is he surprised about?”
Red flag 7
“When the fighter says he is not a cocaine addict or frequent user, his eyes go to his bottom right, which is indicative of processing information with emotions,” explains Driver. “This is a change from his baseline throughout the interview, where he looked to his bottom left, which is internal dialogue or self talk. Why the change in behavior here?”
Red flag 8
“When talking further about not having a drug addiction or problem, we see the fighter smile here and do another eyebrow flash, indicating surprise. Although the smile and surprise could be because he thinks it's absolutely ridiculous because he has no room to have a drug problem or there could be more to the story here,” Driver says. “If I were interviewing him I would ask a question about why the smile and what's so surprising. The reporter then shares information that people who know him are shocked that he had used cocaine and the fighter shows no change in behavior like a smile or a contempt smirk, I'm inclined to believe that he is telling the truth here. However, I would need the follow-up question to make certain.”
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Our second expert, Patti Wood, holds a master’s degree in interpersonal communication with an emphasis in non-verbal communication. She has given her expert analysis to countless law enforcement agencies and media outlets, including CNN, Fox News, ABC News, The Washington Post, and National Post.
Here is Wood’s analysis:
On “Bones” vs. Jones
“Jon Jones truly does have an on-air, off-air personality and great media coach,” Woods points out.
On Jones’ demeanor
“Though at first glance he seems amazingly calm, and matter of fact, if you look closely and examine his subtle nonverbal cues, he shows tension. There are indicators he is holding his deep displeasure [with having to do the interview, or the answers he’s giving]; he pulls back on volume of his voice,” Wood points out. “The interviewer is speaking in a clipped, loud, assertive voice; he is not matching her volume or assertiveness, which would be normal if he was totally relaxed, and revealing everything. Instead, oddly we see this big [fighter] whispering back his answers.”
On what his mouth is doing while saying something else
“Watch how he presses his lips together in what I call ‘pouty kiss mouth cue’. Those are cues of the bad taste the question being asked and the answers he is giving feel to him. Also, listen to the little clicks as he moistens his lips. The mouth gets dry under stress. This could be the stress of withholding information, but keep in mind this is also a stressful interview.”
On his choice of words
Jones says, ‘I am not here to make excuses.” This is an interesting statement. People who are demonstrating true integrity and honesty in revealing everything would not even feel the need to say that. He then follows that with, ‘Basically, I was at a party.’ Basically acts as a curtain word that covers up the truth and details of what happened at the party. I typically only hear someone use a curtain word in interviews and interrogations and courtroom testimony when they are hiding the truthful details. You don’t typically use ‘basically’ in everyday conversations. A scientist might use the word when trying to describe a complex process that he doesn’t want to spend the time describing to a novice in his field. Jones is not telling you how wild his behavior really was.”
On Jones “taking responsibility”
“The ‘I am not going blame…’ speech, gives him a chance to blame. It sounds like it was scripted by a media coach. The phrase really works to make him look to the general public like he is being totally up front,” says Wood. “When he says ‘I don’t know what made me...’ while again making the ‘pouty kiss’ it shows he is displeased [with the answer] and not sharing everything.”
On Jones’ subconscious and conscious use of words
“He says, ’I am not a cocaine addict by any mean.’ He didn’t put an ‘s’ on the end of ‘means.’ He didn’t finish the sentence. That shows his lack of certainty in that answer. He follows that with, ‘I am not even a frequent user.’ That is an odd statement. This allows him to define what a ‘frequent user’ is. Practiced liars use that kind of wording. In this case he can make that statement and appear honest, but ‘frequent user’ could mean so many things. This is comparative to the words ‘sexual relations’ in the, ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman,’ admission by Clinton.”
On the most honest thing Jones said during the interview
“The one statement that he believes and feels the most strongly about is, ‘It was really dumb.’”
On his honesty when talking about his brothers
“Watch the bit of the tape as he talks about [discussing the situation with] his brothers and the one brother said [it is a really big topic of conversation] in his [NFL] locker room, he does a tongue cleanse. Very normal cue that shows he would like to get the whole conversations about his brothers out of his mouth.”
On his demeanor as the interview goes on
“He actually gets more relaxed as he talks about not having to check into rehab. I like him more and more, which is highly unusual for a confession/apology statement interview,” explains Wood. “That is so interesting.”
On his word he gives his fans and stakeholders
“He says, ‘…try to do things better.’ His delivery was honest and his pacing was on the mark,” Wood says. “I believe he wants to try to do things better. But do notice the limiter word, TRY. He honestly does feel bad about having let [his] fans down.”