Recent reports have determined that the human lie detector might actually be a myth. Since September 11 people across the nation have complained about the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) use of enforcement of their screening policy. One of the largest used tactics involves “behavior detection,” and though officials from local to federal government have envied this practice for so many years, research now shows that it very likely could be cultural myth.
Passengers have criticized the screening process for slowing down boarding in many airports around the country. Critics of this screening method claim there is really no evidence that it stops a single terrorist from boarding, and actually fails to do anything but inconvenience tens of thousands of passengers a year.
The TSA members have been trained as behavior detection officers, looking for facial cues and nonverbal expressions that could identify terrorists. Allegedly, believers and practitioners of behavior detection often fall victim to a form of “self-deception,” which is the belief that one can read a liar’s mind by observing their bodies.
It is commonly assumed that liars give themselves away by averting their eyes or making nervous gestures. Law enforcement officers are often trained to look for particular signals, such as when a person gazes upward. Officers could falsely assume a person is lying when they look upward and in a certain direction, but scientific evidence shows that the general public has equal, if not better, rates of detection. However, unlike the general public, police officers and others in the practice have much more confidence in their abilities.
The program for this type of TSA training was reviewed in 2013 by the federal government’s Government Accountability Office, which then recommended cutting funds for lack of proof regarding its effectiveness. There are many sources for lessons and general information on becoming “a human lie detector,” even though it is now referred by some scientists as a myth.
Recent studies have proven the mainstream practice unreliable, Udemy is an online source that offers courses in lie detection, advocating they are able to create human lie detectors with 90 percent accuracy, despite the recent findings of it being a highly questionable practice.
This particular source, however, supports the scientific finding that sight gaze has little validity behind its use; suggesting liars often look directly in a person’s eyes to see if they believe the lie being told to them. Other practices posit a liar cannot look at someone in the eye for fear of detection. These mixed beliefs pose much question for a paid human lie detector, and officers with the TSA continue to show criticism.
A former head of security, Rafi Sela, said on Cracked.com that the TSA is all “bullshit,” and no one in the TSA could allegedly protect someone from even a water balloon. One of the biggest problems Sela mentioned was that the TSA is self-regulating, meaning, there is no checks and balancing system. He says, “even the CIA isn’t allowed to regulate itself.”
Sela mentions that politics heavily influences the TSA. He claims that the full-body scanner, which allegedly leaks naked photos of passengers into the Internet, was only implemented because a former secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, invented it. There are known shortcomings of behavior detection, but there are many cited myths within in the practice of the human lie detector.
By Lindsey Alexander