August 10, 2010
P300 Brain Waves Detect Mock Terrorists

P300 brain wave monitoring might work as a better lie detector test.

In the Northwestern study, when researchers knew in advance specifics of the planned attacks by the make-believe "terrorists," they were able to correlate P300 brain waves to guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy in the lab, said J. Peter Rosenfeld, professor of psychology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

For the first time, the Northwestern researchers used the P300 testing in a mock terrorism scenario in which the subjects are planning, rather than perpetrating, a crime. The P300 brain waves were measured by electrodes attached to the scalp of the make-believe "persons of interest" in the lab.

The most intriguing part of the study in terms of real-word implications, Rosenfeld said, is that even when the researchers had no advance details about mock terrorism plans, the technology was still accurate in identifying critical concealed information.

"Without any prior knowledge of the planned crime in our mock terrorism scenarios, we were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and, among them, 20 out of 30 crime- related details," Rosenfeld said. "The test was 83 percent accurate in predicting concealed knowledge, suggesting that our complex protocol could identify future terrorist activity."

The curious thing about brain wave monitoring is that it might be usable without the target of interrogation answering. Their mental reaction to a claim might let you know whether they believe the claim is accurate. With such a capability the right to remain silent would be useless without the right to avoid brain wave monitoring.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 August 10 10:16 PM  Bioethics Privacy

D. F. Linton said at August 11, 2010 4:15 AM:

Workable brain wave detection of falsehoods would also make torture quite workable as well since saying anything to make the pain stop would be detectable. Happy thought.

Lou Pagnucco said at August 11, 2010 8:12 AM:

Could it be applied to (dis-)qualify people for positions which permit abuse of power?

Underachiever said at August 11, 2010 12:14 PM:

Does anyone think that this should replace juries?

LarryD said at August 11, 2010 2:43 PM:

If the subject doesn't need to answer, then there is no need to make them talk, so all coercive interrogation becomes unnecessary.

Alternately, any drugs that encourage verbosity become quite useful when you can sift truth from boast or lie.

Note that even under laboratory conditions, it's not 100% accurate.

Brett Bellmore said at August 11, 2010 3:14 PM:

"Does anyone think that this should replace juries?"

Since the purpose of a jury is to acquit guilty defendants where the law itself is objectionable, (William Penn was guilty as Hell.) no lie detector could ever replace the jury system.

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