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Brain Scans to Identify Liars? 324

Posted by Zonk
from the hello-mr.-anderson dept.
dotc writes "After a bunch of sci-fi stories and rumors, now it looks like the future has become a reality -- a reliable, unbiased test using functional MRI brain scan to detect lying. The article author details a first-person account of undergoing the MRI 'deception task'. And the test is available now - use it to prove your innocence." From the article: "Laken said he's aiming to offer the fMRI service for use in situations like libel, slander and fraud where it's one person's word against another, and perhaps in employee screening by government agencies. Attorneys suggest it would be more useful in civil than most criminal cases, he said."
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Brain Scans to Identify Liars?

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  • by BWJones (18351) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:28AM (#14596263) Homepage Journal
    But advocates for fMRI say it has the potential to be more accurate, because it zeros in on the source of lying, the brain, rather than using indirect measures

    This is completely bogus. Look, if one can lie (and is good at it), it is going to be much more difficult to figure out whether they are telling the truth or not. To someone who knows what they are doing, polygraphs can be fooled and I would suspect that interpretation of fMRIs can also be confused by someone who "knows" how to lie. The trick is to avoid delivering "tells" that are physiologic manifestations of deception. The truth is that there is no foundation in physiology that mandates that one has to reveal anything when stating something that is not in fact, the truth. A good liar will be able to deceive the device and more importantly, the interpreter of the device because they are able to LIVE the lie.

    Now, I am not saying that all means of determining lies by technology are doomed to fail. Rather, I believe that relying on any one (particularly trendy) method for determining lies will work. And the use of fMRI is simply a massively expensive and trendy polygraph, particularly because there are so many differences in cortical anatomy and regional differences between individuals. I would be much more comfortable with a derivative of cortical function such as the p300 cortical recognition waveform used as part of a more complete determination of truth using interview, cross checking of facts, polygraph and p300. Perhaps if the fMRI proves accurate to some degree, it could be integrated, but it should not be used exclusively.

    And yes, I do know a little something about neurophysiologic monitoring as I teach neurophysiology labs to medical students.

    • by Frogbert (589961) <frogbert@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:32AM (#14596282)
      I think this works better then a Polygraph because rather then look at symptoms and signs of lying this examines whether you are looking in your memory when recounting a story, or you are looking at your "creative" part of your brain. However if this is the case I suppose you could fool it by having someone tell you your false story and attempting to remember them telling you it.
      • by BWJones (18351) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:37AM (#14596303) Homepage Journal
        You raise an important point, but note that I said for those that are able to LIVE the lie, then it will be less effective. The ability to trap someone in a current lie is part of the interview process and in that case, it *might* be possible. However, to someone who has rehearsed the lie and is able to live it by recalling the lie from memory as if it had actually happened, then regionality of blood flow or glucose utilization in the brain becomes a much less useful measure.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:21AM (#14596448)
          Amen. My ex was like that. She'd make up lies, and manage to make herself BELIEVE it - and not just small things... She managed to make herself believe her father had raped her, and once also that he was dead... Anything! There's some REALLY sick people out there that lie about EVERYTHING non-stop, no reasons needed, they just do, some sort of obsessive compulsive thing about lying I guess... No one could tell when she was lying (not even herself it seems). I always wondered how she could stick to all these thousands of lies reliably, all the time, everyday, for years... It just seems something impossible to do to me, but she sure managed to do it. (No I don't miss the psycho bitch)

          I doubt this would be useful at all against her...
        • Given that the regions of neural activity for recall versus creativity visualisation are different, and the infinite number of possible questions a person could be asked related to the possible lie. It follows that the ability to "live the lie" could be countered by the skill of the questioner and by asking questions based on recalling rather than flat assertions of guilt or innocence.

          For example a person's alibi for a criminal offence was that he stayed at home watching T.V. Instead of asking if he co

          • by Limecron (206141) on Monday January 30, 2006 @02:11AM (#14596590)
            A well visualized lie and the truth would still be hard to distinguish.

            First off, you make the assumption that the interviewer can know the questions to ask. If someone kills their spouse and there are no witnesses, it's any ones guess as to what REALLY happened. Sure, clues can give some indication (or even a good indication), but if the person didn't leave that much evidence, it's not certain that there will be lots of useful questions to ask.

            Secondly, lots of what you remember IS "made up". You brain only remembers things it deems statistically significant, the rest you remember as "stuff that usually happens". So you can't really ask a bunch of general question and determine it to be true, whether the person is trying telling the truth or not.

            Also, you need to be able to tell what a particular person's brain looks like when it's actually lying. Asking them to state something that is untrue does not necessarily give an accurate profile of how they are when they are really trying to be deceitful.
          • I can't even remember what I had for lunch today, and you expect me to care and know who took a piss break in the middle of some stupid show that was on for background noise while I was semi-napping?
        • However, to someone who has rehearsed the lie and is able to live it by recalling the lie from memory as if it had actually happened, then regionality of blood flow or glucose utilization in the brain becomes a much less useful measure.


          At that point the person is not lying, they are delusional.

      • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:38AM (#14596313) Homepage Journal
        I think this works better then a Polygraph because rather then look at symptoms and signs of lying this examines whether you are looking in your memory when recounting a story, or you are looking at your "creative" part of your brain.

        Basically, you're looking for signs of psychological stress. The same things that polygraphs look for, except this is more exact. But what happens if someone has difficulty recalling events? Various thoughts, including unrelated memories, oddball thoughts, and stressful attempts to retreive the memory, can all occur in a short period of time. Is this sudden use of various brain facilities indicitive of lying, or is the person just trying to recall? When this is compared to brain patterns of a question that the person is sure of (e.g. Did you skip work yesterday?), then the scan of the person trying to remember would look suspicious in comparison.

        I REALLY do not trust this technology. Let's hope it sees just as many blockades as regular lie detectors.
        • by MitsuMirage (825944) on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:24AM (#14596457)
          Basically, you're looking for signs of psychological stress.
          No, this is wrong. fMRI looks at blood oxygen levels (BOLD) in the brain - which indicate what part of the brain is being used. Lying requires more brain horsepower than telling the truth and the parts of the brain used for lying are known. They are different than just recall. This is indeed looking into the brain working and not a side effect like sweating. The recall parts of the brain are known too and thus can be used to determine if you've know a person. Flash a photograph of the person and if the recognition part fires, then it shows you've seen that person. You don't even have to punch a button...
          Having said that, near IR is a much easier technique to look into the brain and only requires strapping some IR emitters/detectors on the subjects forehead. A link is here [oemagazine.com]. Cost is way less than the millions for an fMRI that requires a supercon magnet and Faraday cage. And the subject need not be as cooperative.
          • by MilenCent (219397) <(johnwh) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday January 30, 2006 @03:16AM (#14596753) Homepage
            Lying requires more brain horsepower than telling the truth and the parts of the brain used for lying are known. They are different than just recall.

            I'm still dubious. If the subject has worked out his lie ahead of time, as any good liar will, then there is no creativity involved at the time of the scan.

            There is no "part of the brain for lying," just as there is no part of the brain for making an omlette. There are parts of the brain that activate when a lie is told, but a good liar knowing he's going up against such a machine will go so far as to practice visualizing the lie.

            Also, don't forget: creativity is part of telling the truth, too. Our memories are a lot more sketchy than we notice, and we often internally reconstruct events that are not explictly recorded. The human brain is not a VCR.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:42AM (#14596331)
        I think this works better then a Polygraph

        Almost anything works better than a polygraph. They have a ridiculously high rate of false-positives and false-negatives.

        What's more ridiculous is that many US govt agencies, despite ample scientific proof, still use polygraphs.
      • Scientists, btw, don't vouch for polygraphs. Courts and our new corporate overlords believe in their efficacy because they need them to be efficacious.

        Polygraphs are worthless. Hell, scientologists use a bastardized version of the original polygraph as their testing tool, the "e-meter".

        As for the fMRI, I saw this coming for the last couple of years. Welcome to hell; they think they have another way to read our minds.

        I fear the day when they really do find a way to watch what we're thinking. No Mars mission
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Polygraph tests measure vital signs. To confuse results, one need only have a concealed method of self inflicting pain (such as an upturned thumbtack inside a shoe) to turn truthful answers into lies and vice versa.
    • I think the words of George Costanza sum up how to fool the fMRI...
      George and Jerry talking about how to fool the polygraph test (to prove that Jerry doesn't watch Melroe's place)
      George (to Jerry): "You if believe it, it's not a lie."

      I too wonder about the cost and practicality of this. Most of the examples they provided can simply be solved with a regular (cheap) polygraph test - only one who is REALLY good at lying can fool this. I imagine it would be hard to get a warrant for $*00,000 to get some
      • by BWJones (18351) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:42AM (#14596333) Homepage Journal
        "You if believe it, it's not a lie."

        This is exactly true.

        I imagine it would be hard to get a warrant for $*00,000 to get some guy tested on the fMRI.

        MRIs are not quite that expensive. We (our family business) charge on average about $2000 with all the costs considered of operating them (electricity, cryogenic liquids, trained personnel, depreciation). fMRI is going to be a bit more expensive than that, but certainly not in the five to six figure range.

        however, the very concept of the 100% accurate lie detector is scary. It would have a huge impact on politics, crime, and even personal issues. "Did you cheat on me? Do you look at porn a lot? Do you think I'm fat?"

        What is more scary is the level of science education of those individuals who will be wanting to use these measures of veracity to determine truth. People are always looking for the quick answer and they are not always willing to put the time or effort into determining what is truth.

        • What matters more than whether or not you believe it is whether or not you are attempting to misrepresent the truth. If you have conflicting memories (which could be caused by making yourself believe something to be true for the purpose of defeating a lie detector, or perhaps just as a result of a faulty memory), then you would _ALWAYS_ be misrepresenting the truth by making any assertion based on those memories unless you were to qualify them with a remarks such as "I remember that... " or "From what I ca
        • We (our family business) charge on average about $2000 with all the costs considered of operating them (electricity, cryogenic liquids, trained personnel, depreciation)

          I read that as decapitation. I was surprised to find that was part of the procedure and was in the process of deciding that I didn't want an MRI scan in the near future.
      • Do you fear this? Nuclear weapons are a lot scarier.

        Assuming it works and is readily available, we're going to learn a whole lot about ourselves. Perhaps this will lead to more tolerance. Like, we may discover we like to think we're high minded, but that most of the time we aren't. If it makes us more relaxed, tolerant, and willing to trust others, this will be great! Like most powerful things, it depends on who gets to use it. If a small group manages to monopolize it, watch out. I can see the mi

    • Lying requires a deliberate conspiracy on the part of the liar to misrepresent the truth. That's it. Very simple, if you think about it.

      If patterns in the brain could be measured which would unerringly detect the presence or absence of just such a conspiracy, we would have as foolproof a lie-detector as I think may be at all within the realm of physical possibility.

      • by Muhammar (659468) on Monday January 30, 2006 @02:05AM (#14596570)
        No. The way the truth detection works is by comparing what happens when answering a set of different questions. There are easy ones and there are problemetical ones (like "did you strangle your mother in law?"). You need to have in the easy ones in the mix so that you can determine the baseline for truthful reactions. You need to do this with brain scans too because because people do not have identical brains. (Relatives of autistic people often show MRI abnormalities typical for the autism even though they are not symptomatic).

        In old times when StB guys (= Czech version of KGB) trained their agents to defeat polygraph, the instruction went like this: "Imagine some very embarassing moment, some fact about you, something you did that would discredit you, something you do not want to be ever revealed. You don't say what it is but bring it up vividly in your memory when you are answering the easy control questions."

        This technique of beating polygraph required serious training - while being hooked up to a polygraph - and it could fail if the tested person was not calm + composed, etc. But the point is that any method has a possible countermethods so we should not be too arrogant about "unbeatable brain scan"
        • You begin by appearing to disagree with me, but then go on to talk about something entirely unrelated to what I was talking about.

          I wasn't talking about how polygraph tests work.

          I was talking about how, at least in theory, a foolproof lie-detector would actually work.

    • I suggest anyone who believes that running a polygraph on someone delivers definitive proof of their (lack of) truthfulness read AntiPolygraph.org [antipolygraph.org], specifically The Lie Behind The Lie Detector [antipolygraph.org], which details how a polygraph works and why it doesn't qualify as science in any definition of the term. Granted, the site may be biased but the document does show how someone could beat the polygraph machine rather easily by artificially creating the emotional "tells" on certain questions and avoiding them on other
    • I very much think that an idealized lie detector will be feasible, and that it will, as you suggest, involve multiple technologies acting in concert. Polygraph devices, fMRI, voice stress and a number of other techniques not yet discovered could, I imagine, be refined and combined should serve well in this capacity.

      The real problem - again, you suggest it - is that some people live a lie as if it is the truth. The question is, are these people insane? Are they so insane that they won't be able to tell "usef
      • The question is, are these people insane?

        Sanity has no real bearing on one's ability to fabricate and elude detection successfully and in fact, likely reduces one's ability to maintain a fabricated reality.

        Sociopaths are the obvious first source of skilled liars

        Ummmm, really? I thought the first source of skilled liars were politicians. :-) Seriously though, sociopaths are able to defeat many lie detection tests because they are emotionally detached. There is no "tell" involved in telling a lie to other
        • Why would you say this unless you yourself had unresolved issues....

          I'm sure I have a great many unresolved issues - but they aren't relevant to this discussion, are they?

          Perhaps, instead of focusing on the issues of others, you might choose to look closer to home - maybe you'll find out why you feel the need to take a personal swipe at someone who's trying to engage in a friendly discussion.

          Perhaps you just need more fiber - I know I get pointlessly irritable when my bowels aren't regular.

          Take care.
          • Perhaps, instead of focusing on the issues of others, you might choose to look closer to home - maybe you'll find out why you feel the need to take a personal swipe at someone who's trying to engage in a friendly discussion.

            But....that is just what you were doing, right? Look, I was trying to keep it friendly, but you should know that while I don't really know Mr. Jobs, I have talked to him on occasion, and I do respect who he is and what he does.

            That, my friend is the danger of talking trash about someone
          • I know I get pointlessly irritable when my bowels aren't regular.

            No shit?

    • Traditional polygraphs measure the physical manifestations of stress. The tester takes a baseline to control for the stress of being polygraphed and then asks questions of interest. Strategies for cheating include taking psychoactive medication (such as lithium) to calm down, or willing oneself to overreact on control questions to set a high baseline and doing the opposite for real questions. Lastly, if one is truly psychotic enough, one can forget that he is lying and actually believe he is telling the tr
    • At least now I know that George Bush will have an excuse giving him plausible deinability. He really believes his lies are the truth.

      Of course, they will still have to restrict use of such a machine during a presidential press conference lest the important national security secret be uncovered that if it were used in such a presidential press conference it would reveal the shocking truth of virtually no brain activity at all.
    • Hear hear! You saved me from having to write all that out myself, good work.
    • by Ed Avis (5917)
      I wonder if you can use the machine as a training aid to learn how to lie better. You could practise telling a lie, and then look at the scan to see what unusual brain activity there was. After a while you will get a feeling for which feelings you experience correspond to which parts of the brain. Then you might be able to gradually train yourself to not experience that brain activity and those feelings. With luck this would also reduce the external physiological signs of lying. You might also start to
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:28AM (#14596264)
    "It's not a lie, if you believe it."

    What's the MRI gonna tell you then?
    • Not sure why the parent was modded "funny", they have a good point. If somebody is delusional they believe their own claims. Imagine, for example, if this woman [kobtv.com] was given an MRI.
      • First off, seriously, whoa. How the heck did that [kobtv.com] make it past an editor? It's sad and, most of all, not newsworthy.

        Second and back on topic, it's not necessary for that level of belief in order to fool the machine. I would be curious how it would work with someone who has repeatedly "lied" to themselves, even if they don't believe it (they would get caught by a traditional polygraph). Is it possible to distinguish between someone recalling the truth, someone recalling a lie and someone making up a lie?

        Al
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:29AM (#14596269) Homepage Journal
    How soon before the FBI and other agencies use biofeedback or other techniques to train their agents to defeat this?
    • My cat has already learned how to defeat this brain scan. He puts on his foil hat.
  • by NoGuffCheck (746638) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:30AM (#14596274)
    SCULLY: Now we're going to run a few tests. This is a simple lie detector. I'll ask you a few yes or no questions, and you just answer truthfully. Do you understand?

    HOMER: Yes! (*The machine blows up*)
    • Eddie: Did you hold a grudge against Montgomery Burns?
      Moe: No!
      [buzz!]
      Moe: All right, maybe I did. But I didn't shoot him.
      [ding!]
      Eddie: Checks out. OK, sir, you're free to go.
      Moe: Good, 'cause I got a hot date tonight.
      [buzz!]
      Moe: _A_ date.
      [buzz!]
      Moe: Dinner with friends.
      [buzz!]
      Moe: Dinner alone.
      [buzz!]
      Moe: Watching TV alone.
      [buzz!]
      Moe: All right! I'm going to sit at home and ogle the ladies in the Victoria's Secret cat
  • ...and in Britain....
    Authorities are discussing how to deploy lie-sensing devices on street corners. They say this will help protect the general public against crimes, and will augment the feature recognition systems already in place.

    American Democrats are poised to follow the lead of their socialist compatriots.

    More at 11:00.
    • It's interesting that you attribute the desire for a police state with the Democrats.

      Haven't you noticed that it's a Republican president that is actively proclaiming the fact that he is spying and evesdropping on Americans domestically? Isn't it the current Republican justice department that is demanding search records from the major search engines? Didn't this same administration just nominate a supreme court justice that openly declares support for the "unitary executive"?

      I'm not saying that the Democr
      • It'd make sense if he's from Britain, where the ruling party is indeed the left... and virtually all the same police state measures have been taken (and then some... the US hasn't followed along in shoot-to-kill yet, at least not officially).

        Whoever's in charge at any given time is pushing through the police state. Sure, it's a police state slanted towards their own particular agendas, but that's not going to matter much to the average person on the street.

        The Republicans love of small government stateside
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:31AM (#14596277) Homepage Journal
    Lie detectors have always been more of a psychological test than an actual method of detecting lies. That's why they're not admissible in court, nor can an employer force you to take one. Now suddenly they can read your brain patterns (which they don't actually understand, just generalize) and tell if you're lying?

    I don't buy it. I'll believe that they have a more accurate method of telling when you experience psychological stress from lying, but the actual act of lying is such an indistinct thing that I can't believe that you have a portion of your brain that says "turn this on when you lie".

    The fact that they want to make this admissable in a court of law is just plain scary.
    • Not in criminal case, note, but civil.

      The likely reason they decided not to bother even trying for use in criminal cases is because they know it'll get knocked back. Because criminal cases rely on a higher standard of evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, and such a machine cannot be proved to be accurate beyond reasonable doubt, it's unlikely to be accepted as evidence.

      However, a civil court is generally based on a preponderance of evidence. Whoever has the most compelling evidence wins. So, chuck in poly
    • I don't buy it. I'll believe that they have a more accurate method of telling when you experience psychological stress from lying, but the actual act of lying is such an indistinct thing that I can't believe that you have a portion of your brain that says "turn this on when you lie".

      It doesn't sound completely impossible to me. "Truth" is typically some form of recollection from memory; "lie" is some form of fabriction, storytelling, and assessment of what the listener is likely to believe. We now know t
      • I'm not questioning whether it's possible or not. Merely the accuracy of such a device. There are so many things we generalize about the brain, that to use brain scans to say with (even 90%!) certainty that someone is "lying" strikes me as a poor assumption to make.
      • Would not a well-rehearsed lie reside in memory?
        • Possibly.

          I wonder if you could disrupt the test results by imagining a lie while telling the truth, and recalling childhood memories while telling a lie. It seems like this would light up both sections of the brain on the MRI, making any test results inconclusive.

          Of course, for torture, this is easily overcome. Just torture the person until they're nearly incapable of performing both mental tasks simultaneously. Luckily, I live in a country (the US) where torture never happens.
  • accuracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amazon10x (737466) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:31AM (#14596278)
    This won't work for those who have mental issues and actually believe they are telling the truth. When they scan your brain all the 'sectors' will still show up as true. However, this would still be useful after it has undergone some extended testing to ensure accuracy.
    • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Monday January 30, 2006 @02:18AM (#14596603) Homepage Journal
      There are disorders (like Aspergers) where fMRI results are all screwed anyway. (Aspergers shows up as abnormalities in the pre-frontal lobes, other autistic disorders show up there and in parts of the mid-section of the brain.) Without some excellent baselines for assorted disorders, it will be much harder for those interpreting the results to know if they have a lie or an abnormality typical of a particular sufferer.

      It is likely there are disorders which "disable" parts of the neurological response. Pathological liars who show no remorse or guilt - even using the best scientific equiptment available - may still show up nothing. Conversely, there may be disorders which abnormally trigger responses. Synesthesia, for example, routes data to completely the wrong part of the brain. If it is possible for a related disorder to shunt signals into this "lie indictator", then a lie will be declared even if no lie has been given.

      These are going to be rare problems involving the most extremes in society. In fact, the very people most likely to be put through such tests. I could be wrong - I'm not a neurologist - but I'm not going to be convinced of its safety as a lie detector until it has been proven effective on people who are naturally on the fringe of society anyway.

      I would point out something else here, too. This test is going to seriously screw with the insanity plea. As I said, some mental disorders are extremely visible on fMRIs - I believe acute depression is one. Prosecution psychs (who absolutely do NOT want people being declared insane) are likely to fight tooth-and-nail to not have such devices used in such cases. The data would be far more vauable to the defence if any level of insanity was shown, as juries are more likely to be swayed by pretty pictures of abnormalities than technobaffle from an expert. They also couldn't get away with accusing the defendent of copying Law & Order, as the defence would have them strapped to the fMRI in no time flat.

      Prosecutors would also likely be wary of it. They want high success rates, media glory and a shot at promotion up the legal system's ladder. Anything that might show that many witnesses are liars themselves would hurt their chances. That goes double in the UK if the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad are involved.

      A bit of history for those who don't know it: West Midland's Serious Crime Squad was caught altering "confessions" and witness statements after the fact, torturing suspects and other things generally considered not very nice. I believe almost 200 people were released on appeal, after that was discovered.

      A bit of tech history: It was discovered by using a device that contained a magnetic resonator, along with some very fine powder that was affected by magnetic fields. I think it was iron, but I'm not certain. Anyway, the statements are all typed up and then signed at the end by the witness or defendent. Paper that should not have shown very faint depressions was, and paper that should have did not, indicating that the sheets had been added after the signature had been written.

      Apparently some investigation showed that this was indeed the case, and that most of the signed statements were totally different from the statements presented in court. After that, as they say, all hell broke loose.

      It is certain that corruption in the UK police runs far, far deeper than was ever discovered. It is equally certain that American police (where pay may be affected by performance, and where the poor have no legal aid to speak of, so nobody to speak for them) are far worse. Introduce a machine that can actually prove that in court, and you risk blowing the lid of the entire system.

      Even if everyone is intending to play fair (ha!), the number of appeals courts ruling for a wrongful conviction will almost inevitably go up. That's going to be expensive, as most States pay up in such cases. If it turns out that such rulings are likely to be common, I susp

  • by kfg (145172) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:32AM (#14596279)
    as detecting truth.

    What's more, they admit it doesn't actually detect lies, because people beat it; and that's under idealized lab conditions.

    Do not go directly to jail.

    KFG
    • Authorities, including the government, are rarely interested in truth. Facts, sometimes. Accuracy and methodology are not the main issues here - just the name "lie detector", just the concept in the body of a contraption is power. It will never go away.

      Foucault spoke of this in Discipline and Punish, where just the placing of a subject under observation was a form of power parading as science.
      • . . .just the placing of a subject under observation was a form of power parading as science.

        Which is how the polygraph "works." It's just a dowsing device, but useful for interrogations, in a very limited sense, to the extent that the subject believes in the power.

        It's basically a "civilized" form of waterboarding.

        Speaking of methodology, the test described in the article was not only not done double blind, it wasn't even done blind and there was no control. Everyone involved knew the subject had stolen so
  • ...or am I reading the enquirer? Come on people. "Scam artist claims to use new technology to create infaliable lie detector" isn't news!!!
  • by oakleeman (939179) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:33AM (#14596285)
    Guess I better break out the tin foil.
  • Claimed validity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jm92956n (758515) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:33AM (#14596286) Journal
    The for profit lab reports the test is accurate 90 percent of the time. Even after an independent study is performed, I'm still not sure I'd trust the accuracy. Controlled tests (where subjects are directed to steal an object) are very different than real world scenarios. Regardless, I suspect that, like polygraph tests, courts will eventually rule the outcome of such a procedure is not admissable evidence.
    • Controlled tests (where subjects are directed to steal an object) are very different than real world scenarios.

      Absolutely. It's an interesting predicament. I would think that testing the reliability is a major pain in the ass. If you take real liars, then how do you know how accurately they respond to the question "was the detector correct?". Or if you tell them in advance what to do, how do you know that they really did it?

      I mean seriously, the subject would have to be a genuine liar, or how the hell are y
  • by creimer (824291) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:34AM (#14596289) Homepage
    Attorneys suggest it would be more useful in civil than most criminal cases, he said.

    Does this mean that lawyers will be required to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help them God? Should make Court TV more interesting.
  • by Vorondil28 (864578) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:36AM (#14596300) Journal
    This is cool that it may present better accuracy than traditional polygraph tests, but the whole concept of lie-detection remains flawed. If the subject truly believes the response to a question regardless of it's validity, there's much you can do in the way of physical monitoring.

    Oh well, there's no such thing as a cheat-proof test.
    • Flipping a coin would be a more accurate lie-detector test that traditional polygraphs.

      http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN03/wn041803.html [umd.edu]
    • by Danse (1026) on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:04AM (#14596400)

      If the subject truly believes the response to a question regardless of it's validity, there's much you can do in the way of physical monitoring.

      If the subject is telling you what they believe to be true, then they aren't lying. They may be incorrect, but that's not the same thing. This device is useful for detecting when someone is knowingly giving untrue responses. Seems to me it would be highly useful. I'd like to see the Enron execs hooked up to this thing for a little Q&A.

      • Well, the fifth amendment protects against self-incrimination, so I think that that would get Enron execs off the hook, since I think they are under charges for criminal behavior. I guess that's why the summary said that attorneys said this would be more useful for civil cases -- the fifth amendment protects against self-incrimination. However, you may not get that protection in civil suits.
        • I guess that's why the summary said that attorneys said this would be more useful for civil cases -- the fifth amendment protects against self-incrimination. However, you may not get that protection in civil suits.

          They also say it could be useful for people who are innocent and want to prove it to the court. We could at least make a public request for the Enron guys to submit to the test, since they claim they are innocent. Then when they refuse, we can ridicule them further. It's not much, but I think

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Monday January 30, 2006 @12:38AM (#14596308)
    Somebody tell Maury Povich about this! There are tons of jilted men and women out there just waiting to find out if their spouses cheated on them, and with an MRI lie detector, Maury can find out for sure. Now that's quality television!

    • I remember a time, about 25 years ago, when Maury Povich was serious reporter. He was on the local news at WTTG in Washington, DC. Then, he tried to be Phil Donahue, and it's been deeper into the muck with him ever since.

      -jcr
  • I know about the research in using an MRI's to see what someone is thinking and it's far from 100% this guy is full of it and what he's trying to do is extremely dangerous. This what I call a classic example of misuse of technology this guy should have his research license revoked for promoting junk like that.
  • People manage to get away with lies in several ways. One is that they mask the physiological signs and body language that go along with lies' fMRI potentially can cut through that deception.

    But another way is that they basically convince themselves that a false statement is actually true in some sense; fMRI probably cannot detect such lies.

    For example, Clinton may have convinced himself that his statement "I have never had sexual relations with that woman." was not a lie because he in his mind legitimately
  • The question has always been why people in an *investigative* profession (e.g., police, law), where the ultimate result should be facts, concern themselves so much with the veracity of testimony. We would be better served, I think, with less testimony, and more facts.
  • The article indicated that the technique successfully detected 28 out of 31 lies. Given that the lies were not rehearsed, were not coming from actual suspects, and were from volunteers sufficiently low in claustrophobia to volunteer, that isn't very impressive. I suspect that there are detectives who are at least that good, and I'm not willing to send anyone to prison on their hunches alone either. Come back to me when you've done 10,000 or so in a double-blind test.
  • by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:11AM (#14596423) Homepage

    Other people have commented on how this is bogus, but I want to offer an additional perspective. You absolutely cannot detect when someone is lying with absolute certainty and faith in such a technology is misguided. Which brings me to the point. Consider this example: people will tell you they know for a fact that a god or other divine figure is real and constitutes a genuine presence in their lives. Yet of all the people who say this, how many of them could prove it? How many have actually had an experience where they have spoken with some otherworldy being? (The answer is, of course, none.) But these same people have been conditioned to believe that what they are saying is the truth and nothing but the truth. They are absolutely convinced. So let me (attempt) to put this in general terms.

    A lie is a false statement due largely to the context and circumstances—not simply physical factors within the entity which may be lying. For lie detection to be absolutely effective, it must take into consideration factors which are not measured when an individual is measured. That is, to determine if someone is lying, you have to determine if there are factors which might cause the person believes the lie is true.

    I suppose we can make it more difficult, but people are trained to overcome polygraphs and VSA. I am sure people can be trained to believe a lie prior to a given test in order to pass as the test gets more sophisticated.

    • Consider this example: people will tell you they know for a fact that a god or other divine figure is real and constitutes a genuine presence in their lives. Yet of all the people who say this, how many of them could prove it?

      I think you've missed the distinction between a lie and a falsehood. Those people are telling you the truth: they really do "know for a fact" (i.e. they are 100% sure) that God exists. Whether God actually exists or not is beside the point -- they are honestly divulging their sincer

  • The Truth Machine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Coldeagle (624205) * on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:15AM (#14596433)
    I believe that this could be an important step forward. I'm sure some of you have read The Truth Machine [truthmachine.com]. Something of this sort coming to reality is both exciting and scary. Exciting because it would allow the innocent to be proven so, and the truly guilty (You know where the lawyer can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt, even though we all know that they're likely guilty) taken down. The scary thing is what about my little white lies that we all tell? My future wife asks, "Honey, what do you think of this?" You think it's hideous but you don't want to hurt her feelings...Pop quiz hot shot, what do you say? WHAT DO YOU SAY?
  • Fatal flaw (Score:3, Funny)

    by Belseth (835595) on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:15AM (#14596434)
    The technology assumes that there is a brain to be scanned. It's going to be pretty useless in determining which political cannidate is lying.
  • Implanted memories (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nutty_Irishman (729030) on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:16AM (#14596437)
    I'd like to point to: http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/moments/s1213245. htm [abc.net.au]

    It's an article talking about how easy it is to implant memories that never existed into peoples minds. In fact, not only do people end up remembering things they've never seen, but they also end up adding additional information to the stories. It's a bit scary actually, but it's a good thought on how one might "break" the system.

    Quoting the article:
    "It's one thing when implanting false memories is a laboratory experiment, but it's quite another when the accused wrongly end up in jail..."
    • by Saib0t (204692)

      It's an article talking about how easy it is to implant memories that never existed into peoples minds. In fact, not only do people end up remembering things they've never seen, but they also end up adding additional information to the stories. It's a bit scary actually, but it's a good thought on how one might "break" the system.

      Implanting memories is not the hard part, the hard part is that these false memories do not exhibit the same phenomenological characteristics as real memories.

      For instance, s

  • $50 hourly professional interrogator when you have about 20 questions to ask... sounds like a definate "No" from cost effective minded Congress...
  • by ion_ (176174) on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:37AM (#14596503) Homepage

    use it to prove your innocence

    Anyone remember the time when you were considered innocent until proven guilty?

  • .... what exactly makes everyone think that we should want to know for SURE that someone is telling the truth or not?
    People have a right to their personal privacy - in my mind this should include privacy of thought.
    Making a technology like required by our society (in the same way that drug tests are required today for employment most everywhere) for various things is distasteful and has dangerous implications for society at large (if it ever becomes cheap enough).
    • I personally believe lying to be antisocial and harmful to people. Yes, there are ways for good people to tell lies for good reasons, but I personally think the bad outweights the good. In the long term, I think the entire human race would be better off if we all had a better understanding of what the truth is.
  • by peterfa (941523) on Monday January 30, 2006 @02:13AM (#14596592)
    I don't know much about lying but I have researched Antisocial Personality Disorer. This disorder relates in that a lot of the most henious crimes were commit by people with this disorder. Also, my research has led me to believe that this disorder is strongly coorelated to the prefrontal cortex. This may be important to the topic since people with this disorder account for a large percentage of crimes, are expert liars, and fill up our prisons (I mean American prisons, for other countries, I don't know). This brain damage just may interfer with the accuracy of this lie-detection.

    Antisocial Personality Disorder is a disorder which is characterized by a disregard for the rights and feelings of others. It was formally known as "Dysocial Personality Disorder," "Sociopathy," and "Psychopathy." A person with this disorder is often called, a "Psychopath." This however is not the proper term because it's meaning has been changed, and it's actually biased language; it is a label, although "Antisocial Personality Disorder" (ASPD) is a label in itself. It's just considered unethical to call someone a name.

    ASPD is named this way because it gives emphasis on the social part of the disorder. However, it is misleading. Most people understand that "antisocial" means to be socially distant, sulking, or whatever. What it really means is "socially distructive." It is very true that those with ASPD disrupt the lives of those around them. Those with ASPD are often highly charming.

    Characteristics of ASPD include callious, charming, grandious (huge ego), high sense of entitlement, impulsiveness, unreasonable life goals or failure to plan ahead, and others. Check out a wiki on this disorder [wikipedia.org].

    In my research, I've found studies that demonstrate a lack of activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brains of those with ASPD. One study [nih.gov] shows 11% less prefrontal grey matter in the brains of those with the disorder compared to control groups (sorry I couldn't link the full text).

    The prefrontal cortex [wikipedia.org] is at the front of the brain and is responsible for higher thinking.

    Another study is of a boy who was playing Russian Roulette. The boy got the bullet. He was said to have a future diagnosis of ASPD (he was too young for the diagnosis at the time). The surgery removed parts of his prefrontal cortex. No change in his personality, or minimal change, was reported by those who knew him.

    Studies on rats show the importance of the prefrontal cortex in the characteristics of ASPD above. Rats with legions cut into their brains tended to be more impulsive. Other studies show a lack of self control, that is, inhibition of an action in a go/no-go task, was weaker in patients with ASPD. (I couldn't find these studies on the Internet, but they may be found in scholarly journels, however, it's been time since I've done this research, and I don't feel like getting up to search them) This shows a stronger link to the prefrontal cortex and these characteristics stated above.

    This is important to know since a lot of these people will find themselves charged with crimes. Ted Bundy had this disorder, and so did most serial killers (I do not know if all of them had the disorder). When these people are assessed using the fMRI scan to see if they know more than they should, there might be a problem with their damaged prefrontal cortex. That is, this brain damage can interfer with lie-detection.

    • This may be important to the topic since people with this disorder account for a large percentage of crimes, are expert liars, and fill up our prisons (I mean American prisons, for other countries, I don't know).

      Uhm? American prisons are full of drug offenders.
    • A person with this disorder is often called, a "Psychopath." This however is not the proper term because it's meaning has been changed, and it's actually biased language; it is a label, although "Antisocial Personality Disorder" (ASPD) is a label in itself. It's just considered unethical to call someone a name.

      The proper term is still "psychopath", which literally means "sick mind", and accurately describes the condition. The DSM-IV is simply wrong to categorize this disorder by a common prominent sympt

  • Lie Detectors (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mattwarden (699984) on Monday January 30, 2006 @02:16AM (#14596598) Homepage

    As far as I can tell, the only way to do this would be to get a baseline for lying from questions the examiner expects the interviewee to lie to, and then compare future questions' results to that. Sounds like the exact same problems with current lie detectors.

    Does this work differently somehow? And if so how could it possibly prove that it's accurate given individual differences in cognitive function?

  • by jay2003 (668095) on Monday January 30, 2006 @02:28AM (#14596627)
    For those who have never had an MRI of their head, it is important to understand that an MRI is not a trivial undertaking. I had one last year and had to be given anti-anxiety medication to be able to tolerate being stuck in a narrow tube for 45 minutes. I had never had a claustrophobic incident in my life previously but the confined space of an MRI gave me one. Anti-anxiety medication would likely affect the ability to do lie detection. Unless my health or life is at stake, I would not have an other one. If what the doctor was checking for wasn't a very serious condition, I would canceled test after getting in the machine. I would never take an job where I'd have to agree to be screened by MRI as lie dectector.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday January 30, 2006 @04:26AM (#14596873)
      I had one last year and had to be given anti-anxiety medication to be able to tolerate being stuck in a narrow tube for 45 minutes.



      ha Ha HA ... erm, I mean, be glad that you didn't have to have one twenty years ago, when the whole process took three and a half frickin' hours.



      Yes, compared to the very beginnings of MRI, it is a quick and fairly uncomplicated procedure today.

  • There's a novel I read a while ago that explores the implications of this - The Truth Machine [amazon.com] by James Halperin. What if there was a perfect lie detector? Then any criminal trial could be conducted in 10 minutes. Ask the guy if he did it. If he says no and the lie detector says yes, guilty. Execution is scheduled for tommorrow. Actually kinda scary.
  • by tgv (254536) on Monday January 30, 2006 @07:27AM (#14597206) Journal
    A colleague of mine (we work at the FC Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, http://www.ru.nl/fcdonders [www.ru.nl]), told me that the anterior cingulate (which is found in these trials), is involved in sensosomatory processes, such as respiration, heart beats, skin sensitiviy... That means that seeing activation there in an fMRI scan is exactly the same as finding a difference in heart rate, respiratory rate or skin resistance, except it is much more expensive.
  • 100% honesty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgateNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Monday January 30, 2006 @10:02AM (#14597840) Homepage Journal
    Last summer, there was as a piece on This American Life [thislife.org] about a man going through a lie detector test as part of the process of obtaining a security clearance. Everything went fine until they started asking about child pornography. The guy freely admitted that he looked at porn, but he conceded that at some point, inadvertently during one of his porn viewing sessions there might have been an under aged person in one of the pictures. He didn't know for sure either way, but since he suspected that it was probable that in all the pornographic pictures he's seen an underage person was present at some point, he couldn't answer the question "Have you ever looked at child pornography?" with a definite "no", and in the end received no clearance and had answered questions in such a way that made him out to be a pedophile, despite the fact that the worst thing he did was look at porn too much.

    The problem with a purely 100% accurate 'truth telling' system is that it's too easy to neglect to measure intent or look at grey areas, especially when one freely admits to a minor infringement of the law or policy which put them inadvertently in a worst position. For example, in my younger days, from 1992 to 1996 I used to smoke marijuana on a pretty regular basis. I don't think it's a bad thing, and even though I don't do it anymore (I just don't feel like it) I have no issues with telling anyone who asks about it. Despite it being against the law, I don't see it any more dangerous then exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or jaywalking.

    However, nearly 7 years ago I returned to my apartment one night from a particularly difficult day at work. One of my neighbors offered me a pipe of what I assumed was marijuana, which I accepted. I took a long draw on it, and noticed it didn't taste anything like what I was used to (and for that matter, didn't look right burning in the bowl). I said to my neighbor 'this is some really weird weed', to which he replied 'It's not weed, it's crack'. I don't even know if it got me 'high', I was so pissed off. I spent the next 4 or 5 hours in a fit of rage walking around the block. I never spoke to that neighbor again. To me, this was a big deal.

    And now, if somebody put me through any 'truth' machine, and asked me about drug use, I'd have to say that I have, in fact, smoked crack. A device like this combined with specifically directed questions could easily paint me as a real junky, even though I'm not and I have some pretty strong feelings about the harder, more dangerous drugs like cocaine or heroin, and even though I haven't smoked (nor have desired to smoke) marijuana in over two years.

    I would hope, though suspect that it won't come to pass, that certain measures would be put in place that would look at intent or degree before reaching a conclusion. If I was asked 'have you ever stolen anything', the answer would be yes. 26 years ago, when I was 5 years old, I took a matchbox car from a local supermarket without paying for it. I still feel guilty about it, and haven't stolen anything since. If absolutes were used and I was obliged to be completely honest, I'd end up being thief in addition to being a junky.

    No man or woman is compleatly without sin, and without looking at intent a machine like this could be used to make anyone look like a monster.

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