Functional MRI (fMRI)-based lie detection has been marketed as a tool for enhancing personnel selection, strengthening national security and protecting personal reputations, and at least three US courts have been asked to admit the results of lie detection scans as evidence during trials. How well does fMRI-based lie detection perform, and how should the courts, and society more generally, respond? Here, we address various questions — some of which are based on a meta-analysis of published studies — concerning the scientific state of the art in fMRI-based lie detection and its legal status, and discuss broader ethical and societal implications. We close with three general policy recommendations.
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The authors thank O. Jones for guidance on the legal issues discussed herein, and T. Chow for assistance with the meta-analysis. They gratefully acknowledge the support of the Law and Neuroscience Project, which is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The writing of this article was partially supported by the US National Institutes of Health grant R01-HD055689. This article reflects the views of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of either the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation or the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis — methods (PDF 203 kb)
Study-specific contrasts and coordinates included in the ALE meta-analysis. (PDF 678 kb)
Regions consistently demonstrating greater activity in fMRI studies of deception. (PDF 171 kb)
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Farah, M., Hutchinson, J., Phelps, E. et al. Functional MRI-based lie detection: scientific and societal challenges. Nat Rev Neurosci 15, 123–131 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3665
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