Field of Science

Lie detection

A few pioneering lawyers have been attempting to use fMRI-based lie detection tests in court. I don't have any broad numbers, but it seems most neuroimagers I talk to are deeply skeptical of such tests, at least at the current stage of technology (and whether such technology can ever catch pathological liars is yet another question).

At a recent talk at Harvard, Michael Gazzaniga related the following argument from a colleague on the law end of things: whether fMRI-based lie detection is "good enough" is not a scientific question but a legal one. After all, the law allows all kinds of scientifically-suspect "evidence" into the courtroom as is (eye-witness testimony, fingerprinting, etc.). Present all data (along with information about how reliable it is) to the jury and let the jury sort it out.

That's one conclusion that could be drawn. Another is that perhaps it's time to step back and come up with a broad policy for how evidence is introduced into the legal system.

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