Liar, Liar, Not For Hire


Zack Lynch has pointed out that there are now two companies promoting fMRI of the brain as a way to determine whether or not someone is lying. One of their target markets is corporate hiring departments. This spells trouble for a couple of reasons.

First of all, while I am not an expert in this area by any means, I do follow neuroscience, even popping in to the University of Louisville's library from time to time to pick through the latest journals, and I don't think this technology is ready for this use. For one, if someone believes their own lies, this won't catch them. For another, it isn't 100% accurate and is open to interpretation.

Secondly, whether it works or not, some people will inevitably adopt it and use it as the determining factor for hiring decisions. Simpleton managers frequently fall in love with one methodology or test or idea and apply it in all cases, ignoring the context of certain situations and ignoring the complexity inherent in some decisions. This is a pretty blunt hiring tool.

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Thirdly, it alerts us to the near future possibility of having a tool that is highly accurate at measuring deception, and raises ethical and civil liberties issues about the appropriate use of such an invention. In what types of situations should businesses use such a tool?

I will say this for the umpteenth time on this blog – the application of neuroscience research will rock the business world in the decades to come. Knowledge work is all about the brain, and the managers of the future will need to understand how it works on a macro level, where it is flawed, and how to overcome its inherent biases and limitations.