The Truth About Lie Detection in Ancient and Modern Times
Witch Hunt. The cucking/ducking stool ( ListVerse)
Our modern judicial systems rely on forensics, the scientific method, and psychological and physiological evidence, sometimes compiled using a polygraph, commonly known as a lie detector. The lie detector is three devices – one to record respiration, one to read blood pressure, and one to determine electrical responses of your skin. Combined, this test is intended to measure changes in physiological arousal, or stress.
But this modern lie-detection technology is largely an advanced psychology test, suggest experts. The horrible truth about the lie detectors is that they’re unreliable at discerning fact from fiction, or truth from lies. Though they’re a somewhat comforting cultural icon, they’re considered by scientists and psychologists to be unreliable, and invalid means of lie detection. Their findings are largely inadmissible in western courts.
American inventor Leonarde Keeler (1903-1949) testing his lie-detector. ( Public Domain )
In fact, HuffingtonPost writes that there’s not a behaviour that always signals if someone is lying or telling the truth. Deception expert Maria Hartwig, Ph.D., an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice told HuffingtonPost, “just by looking at a person's behavior and listening to their statements, you will obtain an accuracy rate of about 54 percent, which is just slightly above the rate that you would obtain if you were just guessing. […]The classic idea that people, in general, believe -- and that … many of these so-called experts propagate -- is that liars give themselves away by gaze aversion, not looking you in the eyes; that they fidget, they change their posture, they pick on their clothes […] All those ideas turn out to be false”.
An abstract for an article from the American Psychological Associatio n notes that modern lie detectors are “basically a psychological test, although with questionable psychometric merit, that assumes that liars are aware of their lying, which in turn causes measurable emotional reactions. This simplistic assumption was not always shared by the ancients, but it now has widespread contemporary acceptance. The polygraphic technique based on this assumption yields unacceptably high error rates that have had ruinous effects on the lives of many misclassified truthful persons.”
In future, as our understanding of the human brain advances, we may be able to see into the very minds of people and judge if they’re lying or not. But with guesswork and questionable lie-detector machines as our tools right now, have we come that much farther from dry rice and sooty donkeys? The more we learn of science, technology, neurology and psychology, the closer we are to realizing we still cannot tell truth from lies, or guilt from innocence, with much greater accuracy than the ancients did.
Featured image: La Bocca della Verità - the Mouth of Truth ( Wikimedia Commons )
The Roman Trickery of Bocca della Verità - RetroBlogRome
Forensics in Antiquity – Wikipedia
The Truth About Lie Detectors (aka Polygraph Tests) - APA
How To Tell If Someone Is Lying To You - HuffPost
Trial by Ordeal - Wikipedia
The Lie Detector: Does it Really Work? - LineonLife
By Liz Leafloor