Lie detectors have been popularised with tv shows such as Maury, and many view them as 100% accurate. The conventional method of lie detection polygraph testing, works by measuring blood pressure and perspiration changes after a person is asked a question. This is compared against their baseline measurement in order to determine whether they are lying or not.
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What if your smartphone told you when you’re being told something which isn’t true? This is an area developers are keen to address. The Hypothesis Project, is currently trying to develop software which can detect when you’re being told a fact, to determine if it’s the truth or not.
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As you are aware, politicians, celebrities and journalists sometimes lie or use exaggeration to manipulate the public. This can have dire consequences such as electing someone unfit to do the job. On the other hand, deception is a key human trait, and sometimes it is necessary to lie.
One key advantage of giving everyone the tools of lie detection is that we would be empowered to make the right choices. A salesman won’t be able to lie in order to make a sale because you could check quickly. Notably, we already have a facts checker- the internet. However, what researchers are proposing is an app which notifies you immediately when a person lies. For this to work it would need to listen 24/7. There are several ethical considerations to be taken into account, for instance:
1) Who decides what is true?
There are certain events which we still can’t reach a consensus on. It divides opinion. Giving a central authority the opportunity to decide what is true or a lie also empowers them to twist the truth.
2) Do we want to be monitored all the time?
In order for such an app to work it will need to listen all the time, and also “read” the information we consume online. This gives the creators a lot of data. As with most apps, when this data is monetised companies would know almost everything about us.
NuraLogix is a Toronto startup working to make lie detection software affordable and mobile. Their technology works by detecting micro expressions and blood pressure changes in the face. Whenever we lie, blood pressure goes up, body language changes and we use micro expressions. It is almost impossible for the naked eye to catch all these lying traits.
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Much like a ‘normal’ polygraph test this technology would never be 100% accurate. Some people are better at controlling their body language than others. Moreover, narcissists and pathological liars aren’t always aware that they are lying. It comes naturally to them. For such people, accuracy will probably reduce. Saying that, there are some real world applications for such a technology.
1) Newscasters could use it during live political debates in order to give voters more information to make the right choice. Arguably, this could make politicians more honest and realistic with what they can do for the people.
2) Those in a relationship could use it to find out whether their partner is being honest.
3) People could use it during negotiations in order to reduce the probability of getting scammed.
4) Advertisers could use it in order to measure how people react to their billboards. This can be used to inform a campaign strategy in real time and help increase sales.
5) The lie detection technology could be used to give jurors more information in order to reach a decision.
Notably, each of the scenarios above also come with ethical considerations. Arguably, lies are sometimes needed in order to protect those we love. Plus, being able to lie is a key human trait.
Moreover, since the lie detection technology wouldn’t be 100% accurate, it could cause false negatives with dire consequences. In 2008 an Indian court used an EEG lie detection technique as evidence to sentence a suspect. The EEG technique measures electrical activity on the scalp. It works on the notion that we process unfamiliar events differently to familiar ones. The Mumbai based court used the technique to find out if a suspect had previous knowledge of a crime. There is no objective measure of familiarity. Plus it fails to take into account the fact that we are all different.
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A 99.99% accurate lie detection system has to take into account the fact that we are different. Stress and depression can have an effect on blood pressure levels, scalp electrical activity and perspiration. It would be a remarkable feat of human achievement if we were able to create a lie detector with a high level of accuracy.
In conclusion, I hope you found this post useful and it just goes to prove that research into lie detection is growing each day in order to discover a breakthrough.