Research casts doubt on voice-stress lie detection technology

Photo by Joe Angeles / WUSTL PhotoThe Truster hand-held “Emotion Reader.”Voice-stress analysis, an alternative to the polygraph as a method for lie detection, is already widely used in police and insurance fraud investigations. Now, however, it is being touted as a powerful and effective tool for an array of new applications — everything from screening potential terrorists in the nation’s airports to catching wayward spouses in messy marital disputes. Despite its booming popularity, recent federally sponsored studies have found little evidence that existing voice-stress technologies are capable of consistently detecting lies and deceptions. “You could have gotten better results by flipping a coin,” says Washington University in St. Louis psychologist Mitchell S. Sommers, lead investigator on a recent voice-stress study.