Is commercial lie detection set to go?

… asks Ronald Bailey on Reason Online (23 Feb):

[…] Deception arises in our brains. The utility of finding a way to look under the hood directly for the source of deception is undeniable. Not surprisingly, a number of researchers have been trying to find correlates in the brain for truth and lies. […] Now a couple of American companies are claiming to be able to do just that. No Lie MRI in Tarzana, Calif., and Cephos Corporation in Pepperell, Mass. use fMRI scanning to uncover deception. No Lie MRI asserts that its technology, “represents the first and only direct measure of truth verification and lie detection in human history.” Both companies say that their technology can distinguish lies from truth with an accuracy rate of 90 percent.

[…] What evidence does No Lie MRI and Cephos Corporation offer for their assertion of 90 percent accuracy in detecting lies? A look at the studies cited on No Lie MRI’s website is not reassuring. The company links to one done using 26 right-handed male undergraduates; to another with 22 right-handed male undergraduates; and to a third one with 23 right-handed participants (11 men and 12 women).

Cephos links to just three fMRI studies, one using a total of 61 subjects (29 male and 32 female of whom 52 were right-handed); another using 14 right-handed adults who did not smoke or drink coffee; and a third one that tested 8 men. So adding up the studies cited by these two companies, we get a total of 154 subjects whose brains have been probed for lying in controlled laboratory settings.

[…] Right now its accuracy has not yet been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Or as Stanford law professor Hank Greeley succinctly put it: “I want proof before this gets used, and proof is not three studies of 40 college students lying about whether or not they are holding the three of spades.”

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