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Computer outperforms humans at detecting lies, by watching the speaker's eyes

By

March 30, 2012

An experimental system allows a computer to determine whether or not a human speaker is ly...

An experimental system allows a computer to determine whether or not a human speaker is lying, by observing their eye movements (Photo via Shutterstock)

If the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey taught us anything, it’s that computers know when we’re telling a lie. While that may not actually be the case for most computers in real life, it could be if they’re running a program created by scientists from the University at Buffalo. Building on a previous psychological study, the team produced software that allowed a computer to assess a speaker’s eye movements, to determine whether or not they were telling the truth in a prerecorded conversation. It turns out that the computer was able to correctly able to spot their lies with 82.5% accuracy. According to the researchers, a trained human interrogator only manages a success rate of about 65%.

The project utilized 40 videotaped conversations culled from a pool of 132 used in the original psychological study, in which subjects chose whether or not to steal a cheque, and were then asked if they had done so. The selected videos represented a variety of skin colors, head poses and lighting conditions, plus some of them included potential visual obstructions, such as eyeglasses worn by the speakers.

In order for the computer to identify the tell-tale “lying eyes” of each person, it first needed a baseline example of their regular eye movements, as exhibited when they were telling the truth. This was accomplished by starting each interview with simple questions, that had obvious truthful answers, and observing the speakers’ eyes. In particular, the program took note of their rate of blinking, and the frequency at which they shifted their gaze.

As the conversation moved on, the subjects were asked whether or not they had stolen the cheque. If their eye movement pattern remained the same, it was assumed they were telling the truth. If it changed, however, they were labelled as liars. While most of the speakers were caught out, a few were particularly good liars, and were able to keep their physiological responses (including their eye movements) under control.

The scientists now plan on further studies utilizing a larger database, and ultimately hope to develop a system that could be used alongside human interrogators.

“What we wanted to understand was whether there are signal changes emitted by people when they are lying, and can machines detect them?” stated assistant professor Ifeoma Nwogu. “The answer was yes, and yes.”

Source: University at Buffalo

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
10 Comments

They should have had some of the people who did the lying/non-lying footage recruited from prisons and other groups of both psychopaths and practiced liars (politicians, academics, journalists etc.). It would give the system a more realistic test.

And it would be interesting to see if the combination of voice and eye measuring methods can improve the accuracy.

Snake Oil Baron
30th March, 2012 @ 04:51 pm PDT

Would like to know how this lie detection technology compares in accuracy to voice stress analysis and conventional lie detectors measuring heart, breath and skin resistance.

Also, how close to the eyes does the detector need to be? Can it detect lies being told by people in videos, on the news, etc?

And finally, I'd like to know if politicians and Fox news commentators are aware of the lies they tell, or would any of these detectors fail to detect lies told by that sub-class of humanity?

SeekMocha
30th March, 2012 @ 05:18 pm PDT

"Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called 'blush response', fluctuation of the pupil, involuntary dilation of the iris." (Tyrell)

"We call it Voight-Kampff for short." (Deckard)

Mark Temple
30th March, 2012 @ 06:10 pm PDT

great, can't wait for the app.

Inappropriate Response
31st March, 2012 @ 06:00 am PDT

Wonder how well it works with somebody on the asperger's spectrum? Gonna be an issue for it?

rigjunkie
31st March, 2012 @ 04:31 pm PDT

snake oil baron I really take exception to you lumping academics into your "practiced liars" category as my Mum is a retired Professor from Portland State University. I agree about recruiting persons from prisons.

Bill Bennett
31st March, 2012 @ 06:49 pm PDT

Looks like this is the end of the road for lying in general.To wear counter contact lenses would automatically suggest your guilt as the computers would be likely programed shortly after for this ability. Therefore the battle of evolution would then be a contact lens that would not be detected this would be the most likely course or route it would take but it would a losing battle.

Richardf
1st April, 2012 @ 11:43 am PDT

Can you get the computer to check the rate of breathing, along with the other factors indicated above? If so then it could help diagnose other things besides lies.

Carlos Grados
1st April, 2012 @ 08:02 pm PDT

@bill bennett, that is your choice to take exception to what @snake oil baron said, it does not change the fact he is right on the money with the comments.

Politicians, academics and journalists in general are the three biggest groups of liars we have.

Not all of them [yet] but it is increasingly hard to find an honest one amounst any of them.

2640-3690
2nd April, 2012 @ 02:15 am PDT

Hal, the 2001 computer, simply looked at the human mouth in speaking movement , to analyze, and construct what was being said, in a supposed, willful, privacy, from a psychotic computer. As a kid, watching the iconic movie, I could realize this. Sadly, what I could not realize was how our efforts in Space, would fall so miserably to Earth. Von Braun had the US going to Mars by 1984. Guess I will have to go to the Tyrell Corporation, and get a gene fix on aging, if I want to live long enough to see us land on Mars... .

Now, with this eye observation, The Orwellian 1984 Police State, will have another tool in it's grab bag. "These are not the droids you are looking for." Computer: "Liar! Arrest them, Stormtroopers!"

I am amazed that Lawyers, were not mentioned. True, many politicians are, or were, lawyers. Studied law. Somehow, the notion of truth, was not such a big item to be concerned with. Eventually, you transmogrify your mind into a special way of thinking. I did not want to, ah, transmogrify.

lwesson
2nd April, 2012 @ 09:35 am PDT
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