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Behavior Interpretation in Stressful Situations Essay

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Updated: May 5th, 2021


In the process of working with people, it is occasionally necessary to consider the behavior of some personalities and draw conclusions regarding this or that manner. This procedure is called perception checking and is characterized by the need to analyze certain human actions, gestures, and phrases. The use of this practice in law enforcement structures has psychological significance since a correct evaluation of both verbal and nonverbal behavior features can be useful as a successful mechanism for communicating with different people.

In order to follow the conditions of perception checking, it is essential to be guided by different ways of interpreting and, if necessary, to receive clarifications concerning this or that form of behavior. The correct interpretation of certain motives can serve as a valuable quality of a law enforcement personnel and be of importance for working with suspects or criminals.

Human Behavior in Stressful Situations

The peculiarity of the procedure of perception checking is that it is not based on the first impression of what is seen or heard. Otherwise, the initial interpretation of a particular gesture or phrase may be erroneous. It is especially significant to monitor it in the process of interaction with people who are in stressful situations.

Possible reactions of a person to stress can be divided into three groups – constructiveness, excitement, and rejection. It can be the conscious mastery of the situation and its transformation into constructive behavior without any distinctive features. Further, there are impulsive reactions, worsening relations with other people, and giving way to negative emotions. Also, it can be an attempt to reject the problem and protect oneself, which often happens unconsciously. When using all these evaluation criteria in the practice of law enforcement agencies, it is possible to derive substantial benefits from such knowledge.

If a criminal shows non-standard forms of behavior, it can be used as an evaluation mechanism. Thus, very often, in conversations with security guards, offenders and suspects can unconsciously express some inner feelings and considerations. Eyebrows movements, fingers tapping on the table, and nervous glances may indicate a stressful state and help to determine the degree of guilt of a particular person. Fear is manifested in anxiety, excitement, guilt, and other factors. The practical implementation of perception checking can consist in the correct interpretation of all those features of behavior that are visible during observation.

The feeling of anxiety, as a rule, is expressed visually, and it is difficult for an unprepared and especially emotionally unstable person to control some gestures that are made unconsciously. Consequently, monitoring an individual in a stressful situation can allow accurately assessing the feelings and experiences of the person. However, it is essential to interpret specific manifestations of emotions correctly and not to make mistakes in the evaluation so as not to come to false conclusions.

Interpretations of Stressful Behavior

Despite the fact that stressful situations are almost always reflected in the behavior of people, it is necessary to not only take into account the first impression but also to assess specific manners concerning a certain situation. When applying the practice of perception checking in the context of work in law enforcement agencies, it is important to be able to distinguish certain manifestations of stressful situations and correctly interpret them. Otherwise, mistakes can lead to serious negative consequences and, for example, to the unjustified accusation of a person of a crime that he or she did not commit.

Various manifestations of anxiety can be expressed both in gestures and in phrases. Unreasonable excitement may be a sign that the accused or suspect is afraid of punishment and unconsciously tries to lie and deceive the interlocutor. Rapid eye movements, the twitching of hands, the lack of direct visual contact and some other features of behavior may confirm the person’s involvement in a particular crime. However, these signs are not always unambiguous. When interpreting them with reference to the practice of interrogation, it is necessary to take into account the context of a specific problem and the situation in which the person is involved.

A scenario is possible in which the manifestation of excitement and other signs of anxiety can be explained by worrying for the fate of loved ones, the fear for personal safety, and also a typical manner of behavior. Some unconscious gestures and cues can be caused by concomitant factors, for instance, fatigue, poor health, and even mental abnormalities. Therefore, it is essential to interpret behavior correctly so as not to make hasty conclusions.

Clarification about Behavior Interpretation

In order to exclude the possibility of behavior misinterpretation, it is possible to ask the person to clarify what this or that manifestation of emotions and other indicators means. With reference to the force sphere, it is significant to try to find out from the interlocutor how his or her gestures, cues, and movements are justified to make sure that they have unconscious nature. Such a clarification can help either to convince oneself of the causes of stressful behavior or to refute conjectures and explain specific motives from a different angle.

Perception checking is a corporate approach to communicating with people, and it cannot imply unambiguous and absolutely accurate solutions. In order to have a full picture, it is important to validate the assumptions made on the basis of personal analysis. In ordinary informal communication, it is not difficult, but when professional spheres are affected, the task can become more complicated. The interlocutor may not always be ready to entirely disclose the motives of his or her behavior and explain specific reasons. In this case, it is essential to carry out an evaluation as carefully as possible and not to be guided by conjectures solely.

For example, if it is difficult to explain certain non-verbal signs of a suspect, it is possible to try to hold a conversation and receive a thorough explanation. As a rule, a confidential dialogue contributes to a more open conversation, which, in turn, can become a successful mechanism for assessing behavior. Therefore, clarifications are a necessary and important criterion for successful perception checking.


The correct interpretation of the motives of behavior can be a successful mechanism for perception checking, which is an important measure in law enforcement structures. The first impression should not be principal, and the analysis of conscious and unconscious forms of feelings expression in a specific context should be conducted. Sometimes, not only one interpretation of a particular form of behavior can be possible, which is essential to take into account. A request to clarify certain manifestations of emotions and specific gestures or phrases can significantly help in perception checking.

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1. IvyPanda. "Behavior Interpretation in Stressful Situations." May 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/behavior-interpretation-in-stressful-situations/.


IvyPanda. "Behavior Interpretation in Stressful Situations." May 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/behavior-interpretation-in-stressful-situations/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Behavior Interpretation in Stressful Situations." May 5, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/behavior-interpretation-in-stressful-situations/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Behavior Interpretation in Stressful Situations'. 5 May.

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