The Comparative Advantages of Brain-Based Lie Detection: The P300 Concealed Information Test and Pre-trial Bargaining

John Danaher
University College, Galway
The lie detector test has long been treated with suspicion by the law. Recently, several authors have called this suspicion into question. They argue that the lie detector test may have considerable forensic benefits, particularly if we move past the classic, false-positive prone, autonomic nervous system-based (ANS-based) control question test, to the more reliable, brain-based, concealed information test. These authors typically rely on a “comparative advantage” argument to make their case. According to this argument, we should not be so suspicious of lie detection evidence if it has comparative advantages over the epistemic methods currently utilised by the legal system. In this article, I add to this growing support by making a novel comparative advantage argument in favour of brain-based lie detection evidence. The argument focuses on the P300 concealed information test (P300 CIT), which has several unique properties, and on the effect it may have on pre-trial bargaining in criminal cases rather than in-court evidence. The thesis is that P300 CIT could allow for innocent defendants to credibly signal their innocence to investigators and prosecutors during pre-trial bargaining more effectively than current proposed methods for doing the same thing. I defend this argument from a number of objections, and suggest that it opens up an interesting avenue in the ongoing debate about the merits of this technology. Although the argument is presented with the criminal law in mind, it could form part of a more general cumulative case in favour of this technology.
Keywords Philosophy of Evidence  Justice and Law  Epistemic Standards in Law  P300 Concealed Information Test  Lie Detection  Bargaining Theory  Game Theory  Signalling Theory
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