Mind-Reading Machine Puts Woman in Jail for Murder

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 24, 2008 1:09 pm

2215248753_24ae663c07.jpgWill a new brain scan test put an end to lying in court? A judge in India recently used a brain scan to convict a 24-year-old woman of murdering her fiancé.

In a new and controversial way of gathering incriminating evidence, the defendant was read details of her fiancé’s death while electrodes were hooked up to her head to measure her brain waves. Afterwards, the authorities used processing software to analyze the brain scans, revealing that the woman’s brain lit up when she heard information that only the killer would know.

After September 11th, the U.S. funded research to develop brain-based lie detector tests, but critics argue it’s too soon to use machines such as electrogencephalograms in the courtroom. In the U.S., brain scans have typically been used on the defense side to prove mental illness, rather than to prove or disprove truthfulness.

“I find this both interesting and disturbing,” Henry T. Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford Law School, said of the Indian verdict . “We keep looking for a magic, technological solution to lie detection. Maybe we’ll have it someday, but we need to demand the highest standards of proof before we ruin people’s lives based on its application.”

Some people think EEGs can eventually be used to aid investigations as much as DNA evidence does. Still, the machines we used to tell the truth are far from foolproof. The polygraph used to be a routine test to determine if a defendant was lying, until the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that what the test really measured was how anxious a person was, rather than whether he or she was lying.

Credit: flickr / Mike Chaput

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
MORE ABOUT: crime, lie detection
  • Andrew Moseman

    I think that quote is pretty spot-on. Interesting and disturbing.

  • Guthrie Prentice

    Actually, if you take a look at the research, they’ve gotten quite good at detecting lies using an MRI, much moreso than the polygraph. According to an interview with Dr. Michio Kaku, what they’ve found in various studies is that more of the brain and particular spots, light up when lying, as opposed to when not lying. The reason being that the brain has to keep in mind what the truth is, what the lie is, and the action of covering up the truth with the lie. Anyway, this form of mind reading is supposed to be in court already, and is reportedly much more accurate than polygraph technology.

  • Gabriela Chiran

     This is great. I hope mind reading machines would be used more often to see who is lying and who is not.


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