The Brain Science Behind Lies

PinnochioTwin Cities.com has news on a new study that explores the brain systems involved in lying.

University of Wisconsin psychology professor Desiree Budd is leading this study and hopes that the data from the study will provide information for a more reliable lie detector,  With the idea being that different types of lies … may use different cognitive systems.”

Independent researcher Michael Donnelly, also a part of the study, notes, There’s quite a lot of evidence, I think, that your brain does need to do different things to get you to an affirmation verses a denial, and so it stands to reason that a false affirmation and a false denial are also distinct from each other.  That’s where we’re going with this, and we’re very excited about it.

This type of research could yield a more reliable lie detection tool to aid law enforcement.  It would be in direct competition to the polygraph machine, but like the polygraph machine, would likely come under debate on the reliability and validity of the results.  Many more studies with large participant pools would have to be undertaken before this technique has a real place in lie detection.

Polygraphs, the current lie detectors used by law enforcement, measure physiological reactions such as heart rate or blood pressure, which can indicate when a person is lying. But some claim that the tests aren’t always effective, Because the physiology really relies on arousal, if you aren’t concerned about your lie and you don’t think (a device) can detect lies, it may not be able to, Budd said.

The testing works by looking for a specific brain signal that appears when a subject is shown something they recognize. If someone is shown a crime scene, for instance, and their brain produces a signal, it may indicate the subject took part in the crime or at least was a witness, Budd said.

The direction that we’re taking it, if it pans out like we think it will, should provide an opportunity for lots of additional research.  With any good experiment or research, it ends up giving you just as many questions, if not more, than you’ve answered, said Daniel Comstock, a UW-Stout student who took part in the project this summer.

  What are your thoughts on this study? 

Do you believe it will (with more research) be more reliable than the polygraph?

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