Statistics

The Ultimate Test Of Lie Detectors

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.

Abstract:

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.

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Categories: Statistics

29 replies »

  1. I have found that having three people interrogate the subject works well. One person performs the actual interrogation. One person takes notes. And the third person, who is obviously the dumb guard, is actually watching the body language of the subject from a different direction. It is crucial that the subject’s face, hands, and feet all be visible to the watcher. Most people can control either their face or their hands. Some people can control both. But it is vanishingly rare to find a normal person who can control their face, hands and feet all at the same time while lying about something important with real-life consequences.

    This doesn’t work on prevaricators and actors, of course. They’re telling a story or playing a role, and truth or falsehoods simply don’t matter to them. They are why some interrogations have to be extended over days, cover the same ground multiple times from different angles, etc. Most people find it difficult to remember all the lies, and actors are never given sufficient script to cover every possible detail.

    As for torture, it can and does work. But only if you already know most of the answers in advance, and take great care to not lead the subject. “Stress positions” are great training tools for future interrogators. (Stand facing a wall, with your toes 12″-16″ from the wall, with your hands behind your back. Now lean forward until your forehead is resting against the wall, holding you up. This position quickly becomes uncomfortable, then painful. There is no actual damage inflicted in any way, and your interrogators haven’t laid a hand on you.)

  2. This doesn’t work on prevaricators

    Which is a way of saying it doesn’t work on those who are good at lying. You don’t need any help with the others so why bother with the performance?

  3. L. Ron,

    Thanks for your note.
    Just took a quick glance at the “Behavior Panel” link.
    Thoughts, as gentle and positive as possible:

    There is ZERO evidence that there is ANY correlation between ANY physiological phenomenon (“behavior” of any kind, or any other bodily function) and the truth value of human communication.

    There have been charlatans claiming physiological clues to truth-telling for centuries, and peddling fake “lie detectors”–Lombroso’s “Pulse Monitor” (1880’s), Mosso’s “Cradle” (1890’s).

    In 1911 the NY Times predicted future of lie detection:
    “There will be no jury, no horde of detectives and witnesses, no charges and countercharges, and no attorney for the defense. These impediments of our courts will be unnecessary.”
    “The State will merely submit all suspects in a case to the tests of scientific instruments.”

    In 1921, the “polygraph” was invented. Its first use was to investigate a theft in a dorm at UC-Berkely. The suspect stormed out of the test, and confessed to the crime a few days later. The “instrument” was, in effect, a goad to confession. The physiological signals had NOTHING to do with lying or telling the truth. As investigators jumped on the “scientific” bandwagon, the polygraph kit layered on more physiological monitors: blood pressure, breathing, skin conductivity, till it became the instrument we have today–100 years later.

    Other physiological “lie detection” scams include: voice analysis, brain fingerprinting, micro-expressions, facial thermal imaging, functional MRI, neurolinguistic programming, and many more.

    Tests of physiological “lie detection” show that there is no method that is more than slightly better than chance, and most are worse. The worst results come from those who use “explicit” deception detection methods–that is, something like, “he touched his nose, that’s a lie!”

    In the early 2000s, DHS’s TSA implemented a “Behavioral” Profiling program (SPOT), based on, and with the extremely expensive consulting “expertise” of Paul Ekman, the father of “micro-expressions” (and the brain behind the TV show, Lie to Me). They spent about a billion dollars “training” a cadre of “behavioral assessment” officers. They deployed the program and the trained officers to airports throughout the country. This was part of TSA’s “counter-terrorism” flurry of spending. Results? NOT ONE terrorist was identified (a few real terrorists actually passed through SPOT airports on their way to committing terrorist actions). A couple of illegal aliens were arrested, and some other poor schmucks who had warrants, were caught. But mostly it was a hilarious, tragic waste of time and money. Reviews of the program were devastating, and included the fact that none of Ekman’s claims (microexpressions could reveal hidden emotions, which would reveal liars, which would reveal terrorists) had ANY scientific, or even anecdotal evidence of effectiveness. Ekman’s response? Oh, I have it, but it is super-duper top secret and I cannot reveal it!

    So, the Behavior Panel’s views are as meaningful and insightful as those of Jeanne Dixon (the late astrologer). “Body language” is idiosyncratic, culturally (and sub-culturally) dependent. An interesting, and clearly profitable, sideline, but completely unreliable as a consistent and replicable indicator of anything useful. Much more likely to cause false positives, and false negatives than to result in anything useful.

    Hope that helps.

  4. “Research Protocol for Testing Deception Detection Methods,Techniques and Technology to Identify High-Stakes Liars” —> Link —> “Sorry, this Discussion has ended.”

    The PTB don’t want Clizbe messing with their psyops. Lieops.

    There auto be a Truth Detector app that any idiot can operate.

    “Be as innocent as doves, and download the Wise Serpent app today, only .99 cents.”

    “Siri, is this the truth?”

    Need a sin detector.

    I have a highly sensitive BS detector in my nose.

    Need an app that can tell the difference between a liar and a useful idiot.

    What sort of edifice is built on a foundation of lies?

    What sort of men think to build on a foundation of lies?

    Serpent promised we would be as Gods and the nearest we get is Klaus Schwab and Bill Gates?

    I think maybe that serpent was lying?

    “Siri, does the serpent speak the truth”?

  5. My ex-sister-in-law may be an undiagnosed pathological liar.

    We simply assume she’s lying any time she’s talking, unless we know for certain the topics at hand.

    No lie detector needed.

  6. Alec Baldwin just had an interview and said that he did not pull the trigger. First thing I thought was “he is an actor”.

  7. A friend of mine held a position that required such investigations. He never had any problems passing. He described another guy in a position adjacent to him that had a devil of a time passing. It came down to “Yes/No” questions not being “yes/no” questions. When you realize that you are lying no matter which answer you give, you are in for a hard time.

    People who flow with the spirit have little difficulty passing.

    There is a biological necessity to win. There is a biological necessity to not die. They battle each other from every perspective. That battle can never be won. The best you can do is not quite lose. Unfortunately, you can’t quite automate it. All perspectives are valid unto themselves. It is highly useful for that to be true. Someone can say “Let’s not use this guy for sensitive work” and that will almost always be a good answer.

    If you are looking to find an employee, the only way you can be wrong is to hire them. Not hiring someone is always a good answer. Any thing that says “do not hire” is worth listening to.

  8. “Hag Bag” — heh, good one. Kent, your link wants me to sign in with either Farcebook or Gulag — is there a deceiver-free way to access your paper? Thanks.

  9. Briggs ==> In my younger days I underwent training in what would be called “corporate espionage” today — private intelligence work/spying. Without bragging, I was quite good.

    Spies use Cover Stories, large and small lies, sometimes entire life stories, that make them appear innocuous or even solid members of the group against whom they are spying. The key to having and using a successful Cover Story is that the user — the spy — has the unique ability to believe his own cover story, fully and entirely, the spy just knows that the story is true — at least in his own mind. Of course, he also knows the other truth — that he is a spy and that his cover story is a fiction.

    So to detect a World-Class Liar, the detection system must be able to distinguish between the two “true” stories that exist simultaneously in the Liars mind.

    I’m not sure it can be done by testing the Liar. From the Liars point of view, he is telling the Truth.

    My wife and I have a recurring disagreement about this — we share a history we often don’t wish to talk about. In these situations I calmly rattle off the many-decades-old Cover Story without a scintilla of shame or regret . . . . . because for me — it is the truth. My wife would prefer to dodge the subject or tell a smaller brush-=off version of the other truth. Complicated.

    In my view, the only way to discover a spy using a good cover story is to find faults in the story itself compared to the real world…. “No, you were not at the University of California Los Angeles in the 1960’s . . . we have proof you were in Moscow from 1965 to 1970.”

  10. @DAV – Some people, and some cultures (Arabs), are habitual liars. That doesn’t make them good at it. Criminals suck at lying. 99.9% of people aren’t prevaricators or actors. Spies aren’t trained worth squat to lie under pressure. Espionage agencies don’t normally hire actors, because they’re generally dumb as a box of rocks, impulsive, and a little crazy. In other words, they can’t be trusted. As for the remarkably few people who lie well even under pressure – their bosses and handlers can’t trust them, either.

    Please trust me on this. I actually am a subject matter expert on this.

    Remember the Cavanaugh hearings? The Democrat’s main witness couldn’t make up a coherent story and wasn’t convincing at all, but she taught classes on how to beat lie detector tests. If we could improve the tests to beat people like her, we’d still be better off.

  11. You can tell when politicians are lying — when their lips move. Detecting lies is easy; they’re everywhere. It’s the truth that can’t be found.

  12. McChuck,

    Thanks for your comments and sharing experiences.

    It would be great if you’d peruse the paper. My proposal is to set up a testing environment to evaluate the claims of practitioners and proponents of deception detection methodologies.

    Attempts to verify the abilities of deception detection practitioners show that very few are as accurate as they think they are. Some studies show that (mostly law enforcement) practitioners are over-confident in their ability to detect deception. Examples that bear out this research abound: false confession cases, DNA-exoneration of convicted criminals, and many others.

    What my proposal is aiming for is a neutral testing protocol that provides a level playing field for practitioners and researchers to apply their methods against known high-value Liars and Truth-tellers. This protocol allows proponents to show that their methodology works, or not, and to compare their results against competing methodologies.

  13. Kip,

    “In my view, the only way to discover a spy using a good cover story is to find faults in the story itself compared to the real world…. “No, you were not at the University of California Los Angeles in the 1960’s . . . we have proof you were in Moscow from 1965 to 1970.”

    You’re anticipating the next step of the deception detection journey. Once we have an actual protocol that can reliably test a deception detection methodology, then we need to craft a real deception detection methodology.

    I call my methodology, cobbled together during years of practical applications, observation, and “training” in all the useless methods that were, and continue to be, used, Holistic Contextual Credibility Assessment.

    Laying out the tactics and techniques of that method will be the next installment.

    Your approach is getting there. To assess credibility, the practitioner must be embedded in the subject’s reality, and have as great as possible background knowledge about every aspect of the subject, the situation, the culture, and more. If we know the subject’s history, and his statements don’t jibe with that history, (in Moscow vs. at UCLA), then our holistic knowledge of the contexts allows us to make a judgement. Maybe his eye twitched when he said that, maybe not. Maybe he picked his nose when he said that, maybe not. Maybe his leg moved when he said that, maybe not. Maybe his blood pressure dropped/rose, maybe not. But the holistic awareness of the subject’s context is what allows us to accurate with judgements–NOT observing physiological symptoms.

    Your observation about cover stories is exactly the context in which deception detection is both most needed, and mostly fails. A great case study is “Jack Barsky.” He was a professional intelligence officer who lived a false cover legend for decades.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Barsky

    Pretty much everything he said was a lie during his time undercover. He encountered multiple
    “professional deception detection” experts. None detected his deception.

    This happens all the time. Known cases are just the tip of the iceberg.

  14. Interesting.

    I could not download the original paper because I have neither a google nor a facebook account.

    However.. it seems to me that very few actors have enough brains and/or personality of their own to feel compromised when the character they’re playing tells lies or otherwise spouts nonsense – I think that’s a key reason better actors often simply parrot the left’s positions/arguments on everything (i.e. because there nobody home) while those who think for themselves tend to be those who get into acting through other means -e.g. reagan was a sportscaster – but never really succeed as actors unless they’re playing themselves (e.g. tim taylor).

    So, an uninformed suggestion:

    Find a group of people whose power relative to the interviewer is that of a prisoner and who want something. For example, heavy smokers in prison or alchoholics in a rehab center.

    Set up a winner-take-all game in which the prisoner scores if the interviewer believes a lie or denies a truth, the interviewer scores if the lie/truth is correctly detected.

    e.g.

    Take 30 or so street people, give them a placebo combo like one coffee and one cookie in a waiting room with a glass wall where they can see the interview area. Take them one at time into the interview area where any required tech is setup or attached and/or any appropriate hocus pocus (signings, warnings etc) are administered.

    Then:

    1 – they watch the interviewer place and stir a mix of dollar bills (e.g. 5 each of 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, 20s, plus 1 x 50.) into a box on the table while introducing himself and outlined the game plan. Note that off topic conversation is encouraged throughout.

    then:
    2 – the interviewee is asked to reach into the box and select a bill being careful not to show it to the interviewer.

    3 – the interviewer asks what the denomination is, the interviewee answers.

    4 – the interviewer says whether the interviewee lied or not.

    5 – a third person checks the bill and says whether the interviewer was right or wrong, but conceals the real value if the interviewer was wrong.

    6 – if the interviewer gets it right, he gets the cash; otherwise the interviewee puts it in a box out of the interviewer’s sight.

    7 – the game ends when the source box is empty and the interviewee is sent back to the watching room.

  15. Ronald Reagan (with Errol Flynn and Raymond Massey) was in a 1942 movie, Desperate Journey, about an allied bomber crew making their way back to England after being downed in enemy territory. The movie had a number of comical scenes, and one of them was the interrogation of Ronald Reagan by the local gruppenfuhrer played by Raymond Massey. (A 3 minute clip).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raPNZc5ehYM

  16. The purpose of the metal detectors isn’t to actually detect guns on people. It’s to cause them to move one by one through a passageway so their behavior can be monitored. Same with lie detectors.

    Sam Ervin called polygraphs the embodiment of 20th century witchcraft.

  17. “it’s the truth that’s hard to find”
    It’s not hard to tell it though unless you’re surrounded by liars. Then you know something is up.
     

    Look for the simple truths that are ignored and built upon. Sort those out and like the pennies, the pounds look after themselves.
     
    Lie detectors? They aren’t trusted by the police investigators that I’ve heard speak about them on TV. The are just considered a ‘tool’ around which to help build a set of information. Perhaps force other behaviours. At best, they re only said to imply General deceit.
    They must also be based on the developer’s notions of how the body behaves when someone is lying. That is not necessarily the complete picture, as so often with other medical and pseudo medical tests.

  18. The bible says,
    But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
    It says nothing about being a political activist or protester on ANY topic.

    As for “every tongue confess him’
    We used to sing a hymn about that. All C of E regulars will probably know it
    Holy Holy Holy, if I recall.
     
    Yet I have discovered through time, and from a time when I was the only one defending Christianity, when Briggs, even, wasn’t claiming to believe in God, years ago: that it isn’t enough to be in the right, as far as groups and crowds are concerned. It takes time, but eventually everybody comes around to the truth. For those who believe in God, therefore, they have nothing to fear. For those who do not, they also have nothing to fear, since I believe God judges the heart. He is not irrational. Nor is is right to bash those who lack faith for lacking it. It is the height of Unchristian. It is the pinnacle, in my view. Thee is a bible verse from the story of Jesus which supports that. Paul also implies the same.
     
    You can spot a true Christian, it seems some are good at putting on the act, but you really can tell, if people believe or not, if you observe them for long enough. How easy it must be for God?

  19. The bible says,
    But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
    It says nothing about being a political activist or protester on ANY topic.
     
    As for “every tongue confess him’
    We used to sing a hymn about that. All C of E regulars will probably know it
    Holy Holy Holy, if I recall.
     
    Yet I have discovered through time, and from a time when I was the only one defending Christianity, when Briggs, even, wasn’t claiming to believe in God, years ago: that it isn’t enough to be in the right, as far as groups and crowds are concerned. It takes time, but eventually everybody comes around to the truth. For those who believe in God, therefore, they have nothing to fear. For those who do not, they also have nothing to fear, since I believe God judges the heart. He is not irrational. Nor is is right to bash those who lack faith for lacking it. It is the height of Unchristian. It is the pinnacle, in my view. Thee is a bible verse from the story of Jesus which supports that. Paul also implies the same.
     
    You can spot a true Christian, it seems some are good at putting on the act, but you really can tell, if people believe or not, if you observe them for long enough. How easy it must be for God?

  20. @McChuck — you wrote: “I have found that having three people interrogate the subject works well. One person performs the actual interrogation. One person takes notes. And the third person, who is obviously the dumb guard, is actually watching the body language of the subject from a different direction. It is crucial that the subject’s face, hands, and feet all be visible to the watcher. Most people can control either their face or their hands. Some people can control both. But it is vanishingly rare to find a normal person who can control their face, hands and feet all at the same time while lying about something important with real-life consequences.”

    I’m not exactly sure which “side” you’re on, if you know what I mean, but I represent people on the interviewee side of the table. Sure, three people is powerful and intimidating. But the whole process does not obtain truth. It obtains physical and emotional reactions to high and prolonged stress. I’ve seen people “fail” the “lie detector” test when asked their date of birth. Polygraph is an intimidation tool, no more, just as Dr. Briggs says. Having three people interrogate you just puts pressure on you — that does not necessarily result in truth finding, it results in panic, incoherency, memory defects, you name it.

    Dirty little secret: Truthful people telling the truth under questioning in a biased and agenda-driven investigation have a high likelihood of “failing” the polygraph. I’ve seen it time and again. It’s in the literature, too.

  21. Rick C.

    You pretty much summarized the introduction to my proposal to create a valid test of deception detection methods. This is exactly why we need to have a valid way of evaluating any claims to ability to detect deception.

    Physiological signs (blood pressure, sweating, eye movements, hand/leg/hip/head/body movements, brain waves, or any other physical symptom) have NO global/identifiable/constant connection to truth/falsehood of human communications.

    “Traditional police practices in deception detection stem from early theories on lying that assume liars will exhibit stress-based cues because they fear being caught and feel guilty about lying. This theory led researchers to search for reliable behavioral indicators of deception. They examined behaviors such as posture shifts, gaze aversion, and foot and hand movements, without much success.”
    https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/03/deception

    Research has shown that the ability of professionals (law enforcement, for example) to accurately detect deception is, in many cases, worse than a random person off the streets. Lots of reasons for this.

    False confessions, coerced confessions, innocents convicted, innocents executed, unjust prosecutions–these are all good search terms to find case studies of law enforcement “deception detection experts”, sure of their powers to identify liars, ruining the lives of innocent people.

    There are thousands of case studies that illustrate these. Here’s a short video that reviews 10 egregious cases of law enforcement “experts” destroying peoples’ lives by coercing/inducing false confessions. Many of the people who forced these fake confessions probably thought of themselves as “deception detection” experts.

    Top 10 People Who Confessed To A Crime They Didn’t Commit
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-qG3D6MiW4

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