This new paper is from our friend Kent Clizbe, well known to regular readers, and is entitled “Research Protocol for Testing Deception Detection Methods,Techniques and Technology to Identify High-Stakes Liars” (link updated). This was my idea to promote this paper, not Clizbe’s. We need something to break the monotony of coroandoom tyranny stories.
Researching accuracy in deception detection methods is fraught with complications. Probably the most difficult task is designing a research protocol that involves subjects who are real Liars or Truth-tellers. Especially in emulating high-stakes situations, it is not realistic to use naive college students who simulate lies as subjects.
Real high-stakes Liars share few characteristics with volunteer college students in a Psychology section. Real high-stakes Liars are savvy and trained terrorists, spies, and criminals. A working deception detection method would be able to identify high-stakes Liars before they cause great damage—the 9/11 hijackers, Harold James Nicholson, or Bernie Madoff, are prime examples. There is little value in identifying college students simulating lies. The demand for a real working deception detection method is massive. To this end, security agencies, private and government, have spent billions of dollars on deception detection efforts in just the last decade.
A second essential requirement for testing high-stakes deception detection techniques is the actual need for real-time results. Most real-world deception detection is attempted in brief person-to-person interactions—not in a video room with unlimited time to play back footage for minute examination. A realistic deception detection research protocol should provide subjects who can interact with the method being tested in real-time.
This paper lays out a research protocol that provides subjects who emulate real-life, real-time high stakes Liars or Truth-tellers, and outlines a head-to-head protocol to evaluate competing methods, using the same Liars and Truth-tellers, on a level playing field.
Using this research protocol for a side-by-side comparison of deception detection methods could provide solid and reliable evidence and data about the usefulness and accuracy of competing approaches. This evidence and data could drive research and applications towards more useful deception detection solutions.
We’ve done lie detectors many times in the past (example). My interest stems first from my military experience, in which, because I had a super duper clearance of some kind (I did crypto), I had to be periodically screened for being a spy.
These sessions were always asinine. There you sit strapped to a machine, which is meant to be intimidating. Then the interrogation begins. More intimidation. There is always a demonstration the machine “works”, which is meant to be intimidating but is instead ludicrous, for the very reasons Clizbe points out: everybody knows the answers in advance.
I won’t repeat those stories again, except to reaffirm two things: (1) it is certain interrogation can work and can be fruitful, but can also cause false confessions, both ancient truths; (2) machines to detect lies don’t work, and can’t. Further, it is pure scientism to suppose they could.
Lie detectors—they don’t call them that anymore, finding the name low class, which is why I insist on it—are big business. You will not be at all surprised Experts in government insist on them. And, worse, rely on them.
Ours in an age of great stupidity. We succumb almost at once to anything with blinking lights or (my favorite) done on a computer. Lie detectors are both. The desire that they work, and can relieve the minds of those who deal in secrets, is strong. That desire, matched with scientism, is all the proof Experts need that lie detectors are reliable.
Clizbe disagrees, and proposes a new and better test of them. This is sorely needed.
Much current testing is like that used when you’re sitting strapped to a device. One example. The interrogator asks you to pick a number from one to ten, say six. He then asks you each number in turn. “Was your number one, two…?” You are supposed to say no to all. At six you are, of course, lying. The interrogator will make a fuss about the results at six, which “proves”, to him anyway, and to the gullible, the device works.
Clizbe is forced to remind us “Espionage agents, criminals, terrorists, and con-artists are practiced liars.” (He forgot to add journalists.) They are good at lying. That’s why all the successful spies have defeated lie detection. Therefore any test must use practiced liars, else it is worthless.
His brilliant solution is to use actors as subjects. We all recall how ancient society viewed actors with deserved suspicion because of their ability to fake emotion and tell lies. They rightly did not trust actors in any position which required truth. Clizbe puts to work.
You can, and should, read the full details in the paper. (I discussed with him various ways of statistically scoring the results, should his plan ever be implemented.)
A twist just now occurs to me. Obviously, any fool can use a computer these days, or operate, say, a stud finder, without having any knowledge whatsoever of how these devices work. You do not need an electronics engineer to use these machines. They just work, if you press the right buttons.
Any true lie detector should work in the absence of a person trained in how people lie. Interrogators have skill. That skill should be removed from test of the lie detection machine.
Thus, train any civilian which buttons to press, and put Clizbe’s protocol into service.
Buy my new book and own your enemies: Everything You Believe Is Wrong.
Subscribe or donate to support this site and its wholly independent host using credit card or PayPal click here