Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam reports on the pseudoscience of voice stress analysis. Excerpt:
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police want to know if a suspect is lying, but the polygraph test comes back inconclusive.
What’s an exasperated interrogator to do?
Increasingly, law enforcement agencies are using a technology that measures “voice stress” — small frequency modulations in the human voice that supposedly occur whenever someone is lying.
Some police officials swear by the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer — a laptop computer, software and microphone package that promises to catch deception.
Proponents call it just as reliable as a polygraph but more portable, less intrusive and easier to use. Additionally, law enforcement in some states can surreptitiously record a suspect’s voice, then run the tape through the analyzer.
The industry hopes to get a boost from the new federal aviation safety law, enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. A provision of the law calls for the use of “voice stress analysis, biometrics or other technologies” to prevent terrorists from boarding airplanes.
But how well does it work? Studies suggest that voice stress analysis is no better than chance at detecting deception. It is banned in several states and, like the polygraph, it is not admissible in any court of law.
“There is no scientific evidence to validate it,” said Victor Cestaro, a retired biological psychologist who conducted research on voice stress for the U.S. Department of Defense Polygraph Institute.
Nevertheless, the National Institute for Truth Verification, the West Palm Beach, Fla., company that makes the market-leading Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, says it has sold the devices to 1,100 law enforcement agencies across the country.
The cost: more than $11,000 for the analyzer and a six-day training course.
Another company, Diogenes, sells a similar device called the Lantern for about $4,700, plus $950 for one week of training.
Voice stress analysis, like polygraphy, is junk science. See the CVSA forum of the AntiPolygraph.org message board for discussion of this pseudoscience.