Emerging neurotechnologies for lie-detection: promises and perils

Am J Bioeth. 2005 Spring;5(2):39-49. doi: 10.1080/15265160590923367.


Detection of deception and confirmation of truth telling with conventional polygraphy raised a host of technical and ethical issues. Recently, newer methods of recording electromagnetic signals from the brain show promise in permitting the detection of deception or truth telling. Some are even being promoted as more accurate than conventional polygraphy. While the new technologies raise issues of personal privacy, acceptable forensic application, and other social issues, the focus of this paper is the technical limitations of the developing technology. Those limitations include the measurement validity of the new technologies, which remains largely unknown. Another set of questions pertains to the psychological paradigms used to model or constrain the target behavior. Finally, there is little standardization in the field, and the vulnerability of the techniques to countermeasures is unknown. Premature application of these technologies outside of research settings should be resisted, and the social conversation about the appropriate parameters of its civil, forensic, and security use should begin.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Commerce
  • Confidentiality
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Neurological* / ethics
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Neurological* / instrumentation
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Neurological* / standards
  • Humans
  • Lie Detection* / psychology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / ethics
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Privacy
  • Psychophysiology / ethics*
  • Public Policy
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • United States