If Brain Scans Really Detected Deception, Who Would Volunteer to be Scanned?

Authors

  • Sean A. Spence M.D., F.R.C.Psych.,

    1. The University of Sheffield, Academic Clinical Psychiatry, The Longley Centre, Norwood Grange Drive, Sheffield S5 7JT, U.K.
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  • Alexandra Hope-Urwin R.N., M.Med.Sci.,

    1. The University of Sheffield, Academic Clinical Psychiatry, The Longley Centre, Norwood Grange Drive, Sheffield S5 7JT, U.K.
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  • Sudheer T. Lankappa M.R.C.Psych.,

    1. The University of Sheffield, Academic Clinical Psychiatry, The Longley Centre, Norwood Grange Drive, Sheffield S5 7JT, U.K.
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  • Jean Woodhead,

    1. The University of Sheffield, Academic Clinical Psychiatry, The Longley Centre, Norwood Grange Drive, Sheffield S5 7JT, U.K.
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  • Jenny C.L. Burgess B.Med.Sci.,

    1. The University of Sheffield, Academic Clinical Psychiatry, The Longley Centre, Norwood Grange Drive, Sheffield S5 7JT, U.K.
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  • Alice V. Mackay B.Med.Sci.

    1. The University of Sheffield, Academic Clinical Psychiatry, The Longley Centre, Norwood Grange Drive, Sheffield S5 7JT, U.K.
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Additional information and reprint requests:
Sean A. Spence, M.D., F.R.C.Psych.
Professor of General Adult Psychiatry
Academic Clinical Psychiatry
University of Sheffield
The Longley Centre
Norwood Grange Drive
Sheffield S5 7JT
U.K.
E-mail: s.a.spence@sheffield.ac.uk, or jean.woodhead@sheffield.ac.uk

Abstract

Abstract:  Recent neuroimaging studies investigating the neural correlates of deception among healthy people, have raised the possibility that such methods may eventually be applied during legal proceedings. Were this so, who would volunteer to be scanned? We report a “natural experiment” casting some light upon this question. Following broadcast of a television series describing our team’s investigative neuroimaging of deception in 2007, we received unsolicited (public) correspondence for 12 months. Using a customized template to examine this material, three independent assessors unanimously rated 30 of an initial 56 communications as unequivocally constituting requests for a “scan” (to demonstrate their author’s “innocence”). Compared with the rest, these index communications were more likely to originate from incarcerated males, who were also more likely to engage in further correspondence. Hence, in conclusion, if neuroimaging were to become an acceptable means of demonstrating innocence then incarcerated males may well constitute those volunteering for such investigation.

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