Saturday, September 06, 2003

Magical thinking about lie detectors

Government to Give Fewer Lie Detector Tests

Last October, in a report requested and paid for by the Energy Department, a panel convened by an arm of the National Academy of Sciences said polygraph testing was too flawed to use for security screening. The panel said lie detector tests did a poor job of identifying national security risks and were likely to produce accusations against innocent people.
No kidding. Lie detector tests are accepted in many circles, but Los Alamos physicists are a bit smarter than average. Evidently they can read. Being literate, they read that lie detector tests have poor sensitivity and poor specificity, it's a crummy, misleading test.

Maybe functional MRI scans will work better. In the meantime, magical thinking persists in government.