The non-partisan website FactCheck.org has a well-researched commentary on a new political advertisement in support of GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain that touts his supposed “passing” of a voice stress “test” performed by Atlanta private investigator T.J. Ward. See “Whole Truth About the Cain ‘Lie Detector.'” For additional commentary by AntiPolygraph.org on Ward’s supposed “test,” see “CBS Atlanta Falls for Bogus ‘Lie Detector.'”
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has backed off from his declaration at a press conference convened to address allegations of sexual harassment that he was “absolutely” willing to do a lie detector test. In an interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Cain conditioned his willingness to do a lie detector test on the willingness of an accuser to do so:
Cavuto: …There’s definitely a passion to your fans and your supporters. So, um, why not a lie detector test? You kind of offered for that in your press conference the other day. Um, put it out there, I’m taking a damn lie detector test. I’m gonna pass this with flying colors. Shut up.
Cain: Because, here again, why negotiate against yourself. When somebody comes forward, and they have a claim against me, and *they’re* willing to take a lie detector test, *I’ll* take a lie detector test. I’m not going to go and take one against anonymous, no documentation. That’s not good business…
Cain went on to cite the voice stress analysis performed by private investigator T.J. Ward:
Cain: …And here’s the other thing. There’s a private investigator by the name of T.J. Ward out of Atlanta, Georgia who has some sophisticated technology that a lot of people may not have heard about. He took my statement from my press conference–
Cavuto: I heard that.
Cain: –ran it through his software and was willing to go on record–because many law enforcement agencies use this software–and said, “Herman Cain is telling the truth.”
He did the same thing for this woman who accused me the other day when she was with Gloria Allred, and went through and said, “I’m sorry, but there were a lot of untruths in that statement.”
The Hinterland Gazette points out that private investigator T.J. Ward has previously worked with Cain’s newly hired attorney, Lin Wood, on the Natalee Holloway case, raising the question of whether Ward’s supposed “analysis” was part of an orchestrated public relations campaign.
On Wednesday, 9 November 2011, CBS Atlanta aired an interview with private investigator T.J. Ward, who used a computer program to analyze recorded statements by Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and Sharon Bialek, who alleges that Cain made a sexual advance on her when she sought his help getting a job. According to Ward’s software, Cain “is being truthful, totally truthful” in denying Bialek’s claim, while Bialek “is fabricating what transpired.”
Ward claimed his software cost $15,000 and has an accuracy rate of 95%. While CBS Atlanta did not disclose the name of this software, a link on Ward’s website indicates that it is Layered Voice Analysis (LVA), a program developed by Amir Liberman’s Nemesysco, Ltd., an Israeli company. This software was completely discredited by Swedish linguists Anders Eriksson and Francisco Lacerda in a 2007 article titled “Charlatanry in Speech Science: A Problem to Be Taken Seriously” (International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, Vol. 14, No. 2). For more on LVA, see “Nemesysco Founder Amir Liberman Is a Charlatan.”
Not that it matters (LVA being pseudoscientific flapdoodle), but it is perhaps worth observing that private investigator T.J. Ward had chosen the setting for analyzing a male voice when conducting his analysis of Sharon Bialek’s remarks:
CBS Atlanta should have done its homework before running with a “news” story based on emperor’s-new-clothes technology.
Israeli lie detector company Nemesysco has issued a press release responding to Professors Anders Eriksson and Francisco Lacerda’s article, “Charlatanry in Speech Science: A Problem to Be Taken Seriously,” which laid bare in devastating detail the pseudoscientific nature of Nemesysco’s lie detection “technology.” It should be noted that Nemesysco’s press release opens with a misleading characterization of Erksson & Lacerda’s article:
We wish to clarify our position with regard to the so-called ‘scientific research’ written by Professors Lacerda and Eriksson and published in the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law in December 2007, but later withdrawn.
In fact, the article has not been withdrawn, rescinded, or otherwise disavowed by the journal that published it. Rather, the publisher (rather cravenly, in our opinion) withdrew the on-line availability of the article in response to legal threats from Nemesysco’s lawyers. For background, including part of the correspondence between Nemesysco and the publisher, see Nemesysco Founder Amir Liberman Is a Charlatan on this blog.
The “Ministry of Truth” blog, which has been following the saga particularly as it pertains to the use of Nemesysco’s lie detection software in the United Kingdom (where it is marketed as “Voice Risk Analysis”), provides a point-by-point critique of Nemesysco’s press release.
See also Professor Lacerda’s 12 March 2009 blog entry, LVA-technology and Nemesysco’s official statement, in which he responds to an earlier released statement by Nemesysco in response to his and Professor Eriksson’s article. Continue reading Nemesysco Controversy Roundup
Amir Liberman, the founder of Nemesysco, an Israeli company that internationally markets voice based lie detectors that simply don’t work, successfully pressured an academic journal into withdrawing the Internet availability of a peer-reviewed article that exposes Liberman’s lie detection “technology” for the pseudoscientific flapdoodle that it is.
Swedish linguists Anders Eriksson and Francisco Lacerda co-authored an article titled “Charlatanry in Speech Science: A Problem to Be Taken Seriously” that was published in the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law (vol. 14, no. 2 ). Eriksson & Lacerda review several voice-based lie detectors, including Nemesysco’s “Layered Voice Analysis” (LVA) which the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command has purchased and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is considering adopting. A variant of LVA customized for security checkpoints has reportedly been trialled at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport.
Eriksson & Lacerda point out that so-called “thorns” and “plateaus” — characteristics of digitized voice recordings that Nemesysco claims reflect emotional states — are merely artifacts produced by the digitization process! With regard to the LVA software, Eriksson & Lacerda note:
Contrary to the claims of sophistication — ‘The LVA software claims to be based on 8,000 mathematical algorithms applied to 129 voice frequencies’ (Damphousse et al. 2007: 15) — the LVA is a very simple program written in Visual Basic. The entire program code, published in the patent documents (Liberman 2003) comprises no more than 500 lines of code. It has to be said, though, that in order for it not to be possible to copy and run the program as is, some technical details like variable declarations are omitted, but the complete program is unlikely to comprise more than 800 or so lines. With respect to its alleged mathematical sophistication, there is really nothing in the program that requires any mathematical insights beyond very basic secondary school mathematics. To be sure, recursive filters and neural networks are also based on elementary mathematical operations but the crucial difference is that these operations are used in theoretically coherent systems, in contrast to the seemingly ad hoc implementation of LVA.