Should Brain Scans Be Used As Lie Detector Tests? One Court Will Decide

Illustration for article titled Should Brain Scans Be Used As Lie Detector Tests? One Court Will Decide

fMRI brain scans have been used in a few US court cases to determine whether people lied on the stand. But the technology remains controversial. Now a court case could decide whether fMRIs are the next lie detectors.


According to Science Insider:

A federal court in Tennessee heard arguments yesterday and today on whether lie detection technology based on fMRI scans of brain activity should be admitted in a criminal case involving a psychologist accused of defrauding Medicare. Magistrate Judge Tu Pham presided over the pretrial hearing and could issue his report anytime between now and 1 June, when the trial begins.

The hearing provided the most formal legal test yet of whether fMRI lie detection meets the so-called Daubert standard for admitting evidence in federal court, and as such it could set an important precedent.

Last year, attorneys made a request to introduce fMRI lie-detection evidence from California-based company No Lie MRI in a sexual abuse case in southern California (to demonstrate that the defendant was telling the truth). But they withdrew it after prosecutors lined up expert witnesses to testify about the shortcomings of the method. And in a pre-trial hearing last week for an employer retaliation case, a judge in New York rejected an attempt to introduce fMRI lie detection evidence from Cephos, the same Massachusetts-based company involved in the Tennessee case.


Luckily, somebody has already published an article on how to beat an fMRI lie detector.

via Science Insider

Image via: Washington Irvine, Wikimedia Commons.

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Corpore Metal

fMRI and our understanding of the neurophysiology of lying is still quite primitive. Were I a judge, I'd ban it from cases in my court. It's just not ready yet.

Having said that, one day our techniques and knowledge will improve and, yes, we'll be able to to determine with a high degree of accuracy if someone is lying or telling the truth. One day we'll even be able to tell why they are lying and what specifically they are falsifying. This will change the legal system drastically but probably slowly. Legal systems, with good reason, tend to be slow to change.

I guess if we are looking for ideas of how things might change, perhaps we should dig out all those science fiction stories with psychic powers and mind readers in courts or in government interrogation rooms.

Psychic powers are bogus of course but we rapidly developing technology that does the same thing anyway.