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.

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.

  • If this worked it still would be overkill.

    Most of us have great gut instincts and if we would only temper our instincts with some proven interviewing disciplines we could elimiate a lot of liars.

    IMHO many managers are poor interviewers… and are easily fooled.
    Business journalists are the worst.

  • Jason

    It’s not clear to me that it is even economical at this point. The machines are expensive, and people are already complaining about the machines being used to see how trader’s brains respond to the market (a lot of Andrew Lo’s research).

    For HR filtering? I just can’t see how that would fly. Cost/benefits ratio is lousy. Even given enough time, it just doesn’t strike me as a good proposition. A product can’t just be more technologically advanced, it needs to provide some tangible benefit.

  • I think it’s not right! This process if implicated seriously can make out the different things and wavelenghts for different people which I think is noe desirable at this point in time!!

  • Bill

    The truth or a truth? The American Academy of Arts and Science along with the Dana Foundation (the organization behind the Decade of the Brain Research) sponsored a forum where the panelists realized that through neuroscience a “scientific underclass” was being created. The challenge is one of trying to comprehend reality from a liberal arts perspective, while appreciating science as a method to comprehend an emergent reality. Both physics and economics plays a role, though economists may not have the same capacity to be awe struck (like Democritus). The front is one of appearing very rational, which as we increasingly realize, reality, if it is a creative one, is alive and reflects the breadth and depth of life, through understanding both science and religion. To engage a discussion around the structural aspects of one’s existence seems to upset the most conventional thinkers and business people. Have you ever noticed how one can go to school, work really hard to bring the best material forward, and nobody wants to integrate or take the time to learn more? The neuroscience field is no different, only much of their research has been on those society would deem “not fit”. People want simple words for very complex operations, which even the rapid image formation afforded by the digital world, appears to be taken for granted. Now we work to grow an electronic vine but do you look around and see what is happening?

  • Jon

    “the application of neuroscience research will rock the business world in the decades to come”

    Someone already using an understanding of neuroscience to improve business is Edward de Bono. His creativity techniques are designed to overcome the problems with having a self organising information system.