Doug Williams, RIP

Douglas Gene Williams
(6 October 1945 – 19 March 2021)

It is with deep sadness that we report that longtime polygraph critic Douglas Gene Williams died on Friday, 19 March 2021, after an illness. He has been cremated.

Williams, a former polygraph operator with the Oklahoma City Police Department, quit his job in 1979 and began publicly campaigning for the abolishment of polygraphy from the American workplace. In 1985, he testified against polygraphy before the U.S. House of Representatives in a hearing that helped bring about passage of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988.

Williams featured prominently in the CBS 60 Minutes report, “Truth and Consequences,” which aired on 11 May 1986 and documented workplace polygraph abuse.

In 1997, Williams launched Polygraph.com, a website through which he sold his manual, “How to Sting the Polygraph,” which explains how to pass a polygraph “test” whether or not one is telling the truth. Williams later offered in-person training on the methods outlined in his manual.

Williams’ manual soon became the core of the federal polygraph school’s course on polygraph countermeasures. So concerned was the federal polygraph community about the public availability of the kind of information Williams taught that a senior instructor at the federal polygraph school, then called the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, publicly suggested that teaching it should be outlawed.

In 2012, federal agents targeted Williams for entrapment in a sting operation dubbed Operation Lie Busters, as a consequence of which he was criminally charged in 2014. Ultimately pleading guilty, Williams was sentenced to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release during which time he was prohibited from engaging in any polygraph-related activity.

Released from prison in 2017 and from supervised release in 2020, Williams had resumed publicly offering instruction on how to pass the polygraph.

Also in 2020, Doug Williams’ life story, as told to writer Jack Straw, was published under the title, False Confessions: The True Story of Doug Williams and His Crusade against the Polygraph Industry. (A review by AntiPolygraph.org is available here.)

Williams is survived by his mother, Doris, of Chickasha, Oklahoma and a sister, Janet. He was preceded in death by younger brothers Michael and Donald.

Drew Richardson, RIP

Drew Richardson speaking at Georgetown University
Drew Richardson speaking at Georgetown University in 2013 (Georgetown University Journal of Health Sciences photograph)

It is with deep sadness that we report that retired FBI scientist and supervisory special agent Dr. Drew C. Richardson, who has for many years been a friend and mentor to AntiPolygraph.org’s co-founders, was killed in a tragic accident at his home in Greenville, Virginia on Thursday, 21 July 2016. He was 65 years old.

Dr. Richardson, who spent his FBI career in the Bureau’s laboratory division, was also a polygraph expert and the Bureau’s most outspoken internal critic of polygraphy. In 1997, speaking before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Dr. Richardson testified that “[polygraph screening] is completely without any theoretical foundation and has absolutely no validity” and that “anyone can be taught to beat this type of polygraph exam in a few minutes.”

In February 2001, after the arrest of FBI Robert P. Hanssen on espionage charges, Dr. Richardson sent a memorandum to then FBI Director Louis Free advising him that “there is NO evidence whatsoever that polygraph screening has any validity as a diagnostic tool” (original emphasis) and cautioning against any temptation to embrace polygraph screening. Director Free regrettably chose to ignore Dr. Richardson’s advice.

In October 2001, Dr. Richardson was an invited speaker at a public meeting of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph. The critique of polygraphy he provided then remains as pertinent today as it was fifteen years ago.

In 2002, Dr. Richardson issued his challenge to the polygraph community to prove their claimed ability to detect polygraph countermeasures. No polygraph operator ever exhibited the confidence to accept Dr. Richardson’s challenge.

We cherish Drew’s memory.

Among other pursuits, Dr. Richardson was an avid paraglider. We leave you with his most recent posting to his YouTube channel:

Update: A discussion thread has been started on the AntiPolygraph.org message board.

Developer’s Silence Raises Concern About Surespot Encrypted Messenger

surespot-youtubebannerIn June 2014, I suggested Surespot Encrypted Messenger to visitors to AntiPolygraph.org as a secure means of contacting me, and I’ve been including my Surespot address (georgemaschke) in my signature block on message board posts and e-mails, as well as on AntiPolygraph.org’s contact page. Now I’m not so sure about Surespot. I fear the developer may have received a secret demand to facilitate electronic eavesdropping on Surespot users, as did Ladar Levison, who operated the now defunct Lavabit e-mail service.

Surespot is a free, open source, easy-to-use app for Android and iOS that allows users to exchange encrypted messages using public key cryptography. The source code is available on GitHub. Surespot is provided by 2fours, a small company run by Cherie Berdovich and Adam Patacchiola of Boulder, Colorado.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Secure Messaging Scorecard gives Surespot relatively high marks:

EFF Secure Messaging Scorecard - Surespot

Before recommending Surespot, being cognizant of the Lavabit saga, I e-mailed Berdovich and Patacchiola to ask about any governmental demands for information, sending the following questions on 31 May 2014:

1 – Have you ever received a National Security Letter?

2 – Have you ever received a court order for information?

3 – Have you ever received any other request to cooperate with a government agency?

Berdovich replied that the “[a]nswer to all three questions is no.” Because Surespot’s website doesn’t include a warrant canary, I wrote again on 12 Novembember 2014 asking the same three questions. Patacchiola, who programmed Surespot, replied the same day: “1 and 2, still no, 3 we have received an email asking us how to submit a subpoena to us which we haven’t received yet.”

The following day, I asked Patacchiola if he could say what agency or organization is seeking details on how to submit a subpoena. He did not reply.

In April 2015, I sent Patacchiola a similar set of questions but received no reply. I wrote again on 25 May 2015, asking:

1. Has 2fours received any governmental demand for information about any of its users?

2. Has 2fours received any governmental demand to modify the surespot client software?

3. Has 2fours received any governmental demand to modify the surespot server software?

4. Has 2fours received any other governmental demand to facilitate electronic eavesdropping of any kind?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, can you elaborate?

I have also attempted to contact Berdovich and Patacchiola via the Surespot app itself but have received no reply. While its possible that they’ve simply tired of being pestered by me about government demands for information, I don’t think that’s the case and suspect they are under a gag order.

Surespot is doubtless of interest to U.S. and British intelligence and law enforcement agencies because of its adoption by English-speaking supporters of the Islamic State. In February 2015, the U.K. Daily Mail reported that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was using Surespot to recruit British brides for jihadis:

Daily Mail - British jihadi brides groomed using messaging app

And on 26 May 2015, the U.K. 4 News ran a story heralding “Intel fears as jihadis flock to encrypted apps like Surespot”:

4 News - Intel fears as jihadis flock to encrypted appsWhile Islamic State supporters may use Surespot, so too do a diverse group of people, including individuals who wish to contact AntiPolygraph.org privately. The Google Play Store indicates that the Android version of Surespot has been installed 100,000-500,000 times. It would be inappropriate for any government agency to take action that would compromise the privacy of all users of a messaging service in the course of its effort to investigate one, or a few. But that is what happened to Lavabit, the privacy-focused e-mail service used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The government secretly ordered Lavabit’s proprietor, Ladar Levison, turn over his server’s secret key, and forbade him from telling anyone about it.1 I fear something similar may have happened to Surespot’s Adam Patacchiola.2

Update (12 June 2015): The day after this post went online, on 8 June 2015, the Surespot server (server.surespot.me) experienced an outage, two references to which are to be found on Surespot’s Facebook page. Two days thereafter, on 10 June 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Facts (PDF) in U.S. v. Ali Shukri Amin that mentions the use of Surespot by the defendant, a supporter of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL):

11. In or about late November or early December 2014, the defendant put RN [Reza Nikbakht] in touch with an ISIL supporter located outside the United States via Surespot in order to facilitate RN’s travel to Syria to join and fight with ISIL.

18. On January 16, 2015, an overseas ISIL supporter communicated to the defendant via Surespot that the group of ISIL supporters, including RN, had successfully crossed over into Syria.

The Statement of Facts does not specify how the Department of Justice came to know these details. Under terms of the plea agreement (PDF), Amin “agrees to provide all documents, records, writings, or materials of any kind in [his] possession or under [his] care, custody, or control directly or indirectly to all areas of inquiry and investigation.”

In addition, Amin also agrees that, at the request of the United States, he “will voluntarily submit to polygraph examinations, and that the United States will choose the polygraph examiner and specify the procedures for the examinations.”

Update 2 (26 July 2015): In a Twitter post today, information security researcher “the Grugq” reports having received confirmation that Surespot has been compromised:

Update 3 (16 September 2015): In a blog post dated 14 September 2015–its first in more than a year–Surespot claims that it “has never been compromised,” that “the privacy of all communications on our system is secure,” and that it “is not being forced to shut down or build a back door for authorities to monitor user communications.” The post does not address whether any metadata associated with the Surespot message server has been provided to authorities. Such metadata includes user names, friend relationships, conversation relationships, message timestamps, and possibly, user IP addresses.

 

  1. Levison contested the secret order in court, but lost. He ultimately turned over his secret key after shutting down Lavabit entirely. He was threatened with arrest for closing his own business. []
  2. On 22 May 2015, the Daily Mail reported that Cherie Berdovich “left the [Surespot] organisation last summer.” []

Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs Subject of Scathing DHS Privacy Report

James F. Tomsheck
James F. Tomsheck

AntiPolygraph.org has received a previously unpublished report of investigation (934 kb PDF) by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office into an information-sharing program operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Internal Affairs (CBP IA), headed by CBP Assistant Commissioner James F. Tomsheck.1

The report, by DHS Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan, is dated 18 July 2012 and documents gross violations of DHS privacy policy by Tomsheck in connection with a pilot program whereby CBP IA shared personal information on CBP employees with the FBI. The project “came to be known as the SAR Exploitation Initiative Pilot (SAREX Pilot or Pilot).”2

The ostensible purpose of this project was for CBP IA to “enhance CBP IA’s Background Investigation (BI)/Periodic Review (PR) process by leveraging the FBI’s supposed ability to conduct federated searches of law enforcement databases.” CBP IA provided personal information on over 3,000 employees to the FBI, but received, “informally,” from the FBI information on only 9 or 10 individuals.3

Callahan’s investigation “revealed a lack of oversight by CBP IA leadership to ensure that DHS policies governing the sharing of [personally identifiable information] were adhered to in conducting” the information sharing pilot program” and “found an apparent blatant disregard for concerns raised by the [Office of Inspector General] and CBP IA staff who questioned the legal authority for, and privacy implications of, the Pilot.”

Callahan also notes, among other things:

…During my meeting with the Assistant Commissioner [James F. Tomsheck] on April 26, 2012, the Assistant Commissioner seemed to believe that CBP IA’s mission exempts it from following applicable privacy law and DHS privacy policy. I believe this attitude is likely to result in a culture of non-compliance in CBP IA. On May 10, 2012, the Assistant Commissioner told me that CBP IA is already engaging in such activities outside the Pilot. It is critical, therefore, that steps be taken now to ensure that any current or future sharing of PII by CBP IA complies with applicable law and DHS policy, and that CBP counsel and the CBP Privacy Officer are consulted prior to implementation of any such projects….

AntiPolygraph.org invites commentary.

  1. Tomsheck’s office appears to be the lead agency in Operation Lie Busters, a criminal investigation evidently targeting the teaching of polygraph countermeasures. []
  2. The acronym “SAR” is not defined in the report. []
  3. The CBP polygraph unit’s summary of significant admissions obtained during polygraph examinations, which reveals the existence of Operation Lie Busters, mentions that “ten applicants for law enforcement positions within CBP were identified as receiving sophisticated polygraph Countermeasure training in an effort to defeat the polygraph requirement.” It is not clear whether these might be the individuals on whom the FBI informally provided information. []

DHS Seeks Smell-Based Lie Detector

You’ve heard of the polygraph. Now the US Government is seeking to develop a “smellograph.” UPI Homeland and National Security Editor Shaun Waterman reports that the Department of Homeland Security is funding a “proof of concept” study into whether odors emitted by the human body can be used to determine whether a person is lying:

DHS wants to use human body odor as biometric identifier, clue to deception
Published: March 9, 2009 at 3:35 PM

By SHAUN WATERMAN
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor

WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to study the possibility that human body odor could be used to tell when people are lying or to identify individuals in the same way that fingerprints can.

In a federal procurement document posted Friday on the Web, the department’s Science and Technology Directorate said it would conduct an “outsourced, proof-of-principle study to determine if human odor signatures can serve as an indicator of deception. … As a secondary goal, this study will examine … human odor samples for evidence to support the theory that an individual can be identified by that individual’s odor signature.”

The procurement announcement, titled “Human Odor as a Biometric for Deception” is available here. It should be noted that while they didn’t sniff for liars, the East German secret police had similar ideas about identifying people by their odor and maintained a vast “smell register” of glass tubes with cloth swatches storing for future reference the “odor signatures” of dissidents. The scheme didn’t work particularly well. Do we really want DHS to be emulating the Stasi?

Officials said that the work was at a very early stage, but the announcement brought criticism from civil liberties advocates who said it showed the department’s priorities were misplaced.

The procurement notice said the department is already “conducting experiments in deceptive behavior and collecting human odor samples” and that the research it hopes to fund “will consist primarily of the analysis and study of the human odor samples collected to determine if a deception indicator can be found.”

“This research has the potential for enhancing our ability to detect individuals with harmful intent,” the notice said. “A positive result from this proof-of-principle study would provide evidence that human odor is a useful indicator for certain human behaviors and, in addition, that it may be used as a biometric identifier.”

DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa told United Press International that “proof of concept” work was the very earliest stage of technological development.

The directorate “is trying to determine what factors of human behavior and chemistry can provide clues to the intent to deceive,” she said, adding that the work would be carried out by the Federally Funded Research and Development Center run by the non-profit Mitre Corp., which conducts cutting-edge research for U.S. military, homeland security and intelligence agencies.

Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU’s technology and liberty project, told UPI that the plan showed the department had “misplaced priorities.”

“The history of DHS’ deployment of these technologies has been one colossal failure after another,” he said. “There is no lie detector. This research has been a long, meandering journey, which has taken us down one blind alley after another.”

Steinhardt added that even well-established biometric-identity technologies like fingerprinting have resulted in individuals being inaccurately identified, like Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield, who got an apology from the FBI after being wrongfully accused of having had a hand in the 2004 Madrid rail bombings.

“None of the biometrics for identity have worked very well, with the possible exception of DNA,” he said, adding that even fingerprint evidence was “increasingly being challenged in courts around the country.”

“This shows the misplaced priorities (of DHS),” he said. “The government doesn’t need to take us down another blind alley.”

Steinhardt is right, and given the current financial crisis, this technological flight of fancy should get the budgetary axe.

Recent scientific research shows that so-called volatile organic compounds present in human sweat, saliva and urine can be analyzed using a technique known as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.

Research published by the Royal Society in London in 2006 found “a substantial number of marker compounds (in human sweat) that can potentially differentiate individuals or groups.”

Researchers took five samples each from 179 individuals over a 10-week period and analyzed them, finding hundreds of chemical markers that remained more or less constant for each individual over time.

An analysis of these compounds “found strong evidence for individual (odor) fingerprints,” the researchers concluded.

However, they warned that some individuals appear to have less distinctive odors than others, adding that “the reason for the variation in distinctiveness is unclear.” More importantly, some individuals’ odors changed during the course of the study. “Not all subjects had consistent marker compounds over time, which might be due to physiological, dietary or other changes,” the researchers concluded.

The researchers also cautioned that some of these marker compounds might be “exogenous chemical contaminants” from skin-care or perfume products or tobacco smoke and other substances present in an individual’s environment. About a quarter of the 44 apparently distinctive marker compounds they were able to analyze appeared to be artificial contaminants, the researchers said.

“Determining the origins of individual and sex-specific odors — and controlling exogenous chemical contaminants — may provide the most important challenge for future … studies,” the researchers said.

Those challenges are likely to be significant, and they will multiply if the techniques are deployed in the field.

“While some of these sensors perform well in the lab, the real world may be different,” technology consultant and author John Vacca said. “The technology is still in its infancy.”

AntiPolygraph.org’s George Maschke has prepared the following video commentary regarding DHS’s plans for a smell-based lie detector:

Sam Harris on True Lie Detection

Neuroscientist Sam Harris answers the Edge Foundation’s annual question for 2009, “What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?” with a commentary titled “True Lie Detection.” Excerpt:

When evaluating the social cost of deception, one must consider all of the misdeeds — marital infidelities, Ponzi schemes, premeditated murders, terrorist atrocities, genocides, etc. — that are nurtured and shored-up, at every turn, by lies. Viewed in this wider context, deception commends itself, perhaps even above violence, as the principal enemy of human cooperation. Imagine how our world would change if, when the truth really mattered, it became impossible to lie.

The development of mind-reading technology is in its infancy, of course. But reliable lie-detection will be much easier to achieve than accurate mind reading. Whether on not we ever crack the neural code, enabling us to download a person’s private thoughts, memories, and perceptions without distortion, we will almost surely be able to determine, to a moral certainty, whether a person is representing his thoughts, memories, and perceptions honestly in conversation. Compared to many of the other hypothetical breakthroughs put forward in response to this year’s Edge question, the development of a true lie-detector would represent a very modest advance over what is currently possible through neuroimaging. Once this technology arrives, it will change (almost) everything.

Economist Robin Hanson at the Overcoming Bias blog takes a more skeptical view in his brief commentary, “A World Without Lies?”

“Creator of Brainwave Lie Detector Fears It May Be Misused”

Jenifer Johnston reports for the Sunday Herald:

THE creator of a new lie detector which scans brainwaves before a subject even speaks has admitted she fears what could happen if it falls into the wrong hands.

“We assume that the people asking the questions are going to be noble and working for something that is good , but of course that is not always going to be the case,” Dr Jennifer Vendemia told the Sunday Herald. This week she will address a major conference on crime at London’s Science Museum.

Vendemia’s new detector deduces from brainwaves whether a subject is preparing to answer a question truthfully.

Her work is funded by US government grants of $5.1 million (£2.7m), but at the end of her research she can choose to hand her device to the government or to a private company or individual.

“I stand to gain a great deal from it personally when it is completed, but I am very mindful of the uses it could be put to,” she said. “I have tried several times to get ethical investigations going into what we are doing here without success.”

The detector developed by Vendemia, a retained investigator with the Department of Defence Polygraph Institute, places 128 electrodes on the face and scalp which translate brainwaves in less than a second. Subjects only have to hear interrogators’ questions to give a response.

On groups, Vendemia has so far had an accuracy rate of between 94 and 100%.

Professor Paul Matthews, a neurologist at Oxford University who will also address the conference, said there are ethical concerns surrounding new lie detection technology. “In the US particularly the suspect has the right to remain silent — this technology obviously changes that.”

Dr. Vendemia’s lecture is scheduled for 13 January. The Lecture List provides the following announcement:

Naked Science: Criminal Memories

How would you feel about having your mind read by a machine? Is this the ultimate invasion of privacy? Find out more about the sophisticated memory testing or ‘brain finger-printing’ technologies currently used on criminals in the USA and discuss with experts whether we should use them here. This event is one in a series of debates on crime.

The Home Office has already begun trialing polygraphs, which typically measure heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, as part of sex offenders parole in the North West of England – but what lies in the future of lie detectors? Will we soon test cheating partners and dishonest employees? Can we really ever trust technology which tells us what we are thinking?

Experts include Dr Jennifer Vendemia, Principal Investigator, Department of Defense Polygraph Institute, USA, who will discuss the potential pitfalls revolving around the misrepresentation of the research. Professor Paul Matthews, Neuroscientist, University of Oxford will also be on hand to discuss the science behind lie detectors. Tor Butler-Cole, King’s College London, will be talking about the ethical and legal implications of using new brain fingerprinting techniques to determine criminal responsibility. The event will be facilitated by Dr Dan Glaser, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UK. Gareth Jones, presenter of Tomorrow’s World and children’s show How2 will facilitate this event.

The Dana Center, which is hosting the conference, has an announcement on its website. Admission is free, but reservations are required.

“Terrorism Lends Urgency to Hunt for Better Lie Detector”

Richard Willing reports for USA Today. Excerpt:

PHILADELPHIA — In a quiet corner of the University of Pennsylvania campus, professor Britton Chance is using near-infrared light to peek at lies as they form in the brains of student volunteers.

Eventually, Chance hopes to see something else: a day when a device like his replaces the old, often inaccurate polygraph as the best way for the U.S. government to detect lies told by spies, saboteurs and terrorists.

Chance is among dozens of university and government researchers who have invigorated the hunt for a better lie detector, an effort that has been made more urgent by America’s focus on national security since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In labs across the nation, researchers are using technologies originally developed to examine diseases, brain activity, obesity and even learning disorders to try to solve some of the mysteries of human conduct. The provocative idea behind some of the research is to go beyond measuring the anxiety of a liar — as polygraphs try to do — and to catch the lies as they form in the human brain.

“We need something; we have a country under stress” because of increased fears of terrorism, says Chance, 90, a biochemist and engineer who helped to develop military radar during World War II. “It might be fixed by finding out what people are thinking about.”

Even its staunchest defenders doubt that the polygraph is up to the job. Invented in 1915, the device uses wires, cuffs and a chest harness to measure changes in breathing, perspiration and heart rate. The presumption behind polygraph tests is that such changes can be brought on by the stress of telling a lie.

But researchers have long questioned the polygraph’s accuracy, in part because the test itself can make a person nervous enough to skew the results. In criminal cases, the accuracy of such tests can vary widely. Courts in only one state, New Mexico, routinely accept polygraph results as evidence.

And security screeners who use the machine to try to pick out would-be terrorists or spies have a more difficult challenge, polygraph critics say. Without details of a specific crime or security violation to ask about, polygraphs miss real spies and sometimes implicate innocent people.

Former CIA officer Aldrich Ames, who spied for the Soviet Union, and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes, who spied for Cuba, both passed polygraphs.

The polygraph is “a technology under duress,” says Frank Horvath, a Michigan State University professor of criminology and a Defense Department adviser. “The question is: Is there some way better, and how do you find it?”

The Defense Department, the FBI and the CIA are among the U.S. agencies trying to answer that.

Still no proven way

The Defense Department’s Polygraph Institute at Fort Jackson, S.C., is financing at least 20 projects aimed at finding a better lie detector. Another Pentagon office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is exploring magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other technologies. The FBI and CIA are backing more research.

Because much of the work is secret, it is difficult to estimate how much is being spent.

All the projects are in their early stages, and they are shadowed by a glaring fact: Scientists still haven’t proven that there is a scientific way to catch a liar. If a device such as Chance’s were to become the standard, a range of ethical and legal questions would pop up over how it should be used.

For now, government examiners continue to rely on the old device.

So until something better comes along, agencies continue to use the polygraph. Horvath says the government would drop the polygraph “in a minute” if a more effective device were developed. Critics say it should be dropped anyway.

“Is it better than nothing, or worse?” asks Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, which has criticized government secrecy. “It’s worse if it creates a false sense of security or excludes qualified employees from government service. Any new technology has to pass that test.”

“Non-Invasive Polygraph Technology Based on Optical Analysis”

Optics.org reports on a recent patent application in its “Patent Highlights” feature:

Title: Non-invasive polygraph technology based on optical analysis
Applicant: Defense Group, US
International application number: WO 03/057003
Infrared laser pulses could soon be used to determine whether someone is telling the truth or is under stress. In patent application WO 03/057003, US firm Defense Group describes a non-invasive polygraph machine that fires infrared pulses at the subject. The reflected and scattered pulses are gathered and analysed by a receiver. “The receiver is connected to an information processing device capable of determining various physiological characteristics exhibited by the human subject,” say the authors.

“Intuitive People Worse at Detecting Lies”

Emma Young reports for the NewScientist.com news service. Excerpt:

People who think of themselves as being intuitive make worse lie detectors than those who do not trust in a “gut instinct”, according to new research.

“People generally aren’t very good at detecting lies – accuracy is between 45 and 65 per cent,” says Paul Seager of the University of Central Lancashire, Preston. “So my interest is: are there ways of making people better lie detectors?”

Seager showed 10 video clips of people lying or telling the truth about their favourite films or preferred ways of relaxing to 200 people. Half of these believed they were very intuitive and had scored highly on questionnaires designed to reveal this belief. The other half had low scores.

The intuitive group were 59 per cent accurate at detecting lies. But the non-intuitive people were 69 per cent accurate. “The intuitives fell into the normal range, but the others were significantly better,” Seager says.