In “Duped”, a story in the July 2 issue of The New Yorker, Margaret Talbot explores how the science behind lie detection is fast becoming one of the latest conquests of the burgeoning field of neuroscience.
Neuroscience, like technology, has a way of bewitching scientists and others with its multitude of possibilities. “Brain scans enthrall us,” Talbot notes, “in part, because they seem more like ‘real’ science than those elaborate deductive experiments so many psychologists perform.”
In light of this trend, several start-ups have begun to offer neuroscience-based brain scan technology and analysis as an alternative to the polygraph and traditional psychological tests for truth and lies – those interested so far include the US Government and the parents of adolescents. Terrence Sejnowski, editor of Neural Computation and director of the Crick-Jacobs Center at the Salk Institute, is one of four paid scientific advisers for one such company, No Lie MRI. “The demand is there,” he says, “and to succeed as a company the new technology only needs to be better than existing approaches.”
Whether brain scan lie detection is actually more effective than polygraph is still under debate. But many are willing to believe it is. A forthcoming article in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience explores the seductive allure of neuroscience (in the form of a scientific study). As the authors of a forthcoming article in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience conclude, “People seem all too ready to accept explanations that allude to neuroscience.” As Kanwisher and others note, there is a great need for more scientific study on fMRI lie detection testing, along with more study around the trends in neuroscience – given the effects such developments will have on science, law and society.