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“That witness is lying and I can prove it”

Monday, June 28, 2010
posted by Douglas Keene

We hate to be tricked. And we are always looking for sure ways to avoid it. We want magical secrets to detecting deception in others. While jurors want to detect deception on the part of parties and witnesses—trial lawyers want to identify who tells the truth in voir dire and jury selection.

Parlor trick strategies have been around for years and have become part of our collective consciousness about how to detect deception. There are also some research efforts to behaviorally define/detect deception.

In the more academic arena, we’ve been seeing efforts to introduce brain scans (aka fMRI’s or neuroimaging) into the courtroom as scientific evidence of deception for some time now. We’ve blogged about it a number of times, here and here and here.

Recently, Seed Magazine had a terrific piece on the controversy surrounding neuroimaging written by Moheb Costandi (a molecular and developmental neurobiologist turned freelance science writer and a pretty smart guy). He summarizes the evidence for (and not so much for) the use of neuroimaging in the courtroom. He concludes that no, neuroimaging is not built for the courtroom, less due to the technology but because of brains and how they work. We’ve tended to agree with this conclusion but also agree that time may change how we think and what we know about how the brain works. Until then, you stay tuned and we’ll keep watching writers, researchers, inventor-vendors and attorneys who try to push the limits on this fascinating new arena.

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