To Tell the Truth

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." --- John 8:32

Does it seem that we are immersed in an atmosphere of half-truths, bold-faced lies, deception, and willful manipulation?

If so, fear not: The voice polygraph has arrived! Now, truth-seeking individuals no longer need to surreptitiously attach bulky sensors to someone's skin. The truth can be found from PC technology linked to a standard telephone.

I recently evaluated Truster, a voice-polygraph product that, according to Seem Software (one of its U.S. distributors), is suitable for use by "a wide gambit of people" including "girls going on dates." Guided by the 40-page manual and a technical support specialist from Seem, I installed Truster on my PC and hooked it to my telephone. Then, using undeniably semi-scientific methodology  I crafted a wily questionnaire, set my trap, and snared both the unsuspecting and the suspected.


Like their polygraph counterparts, Truster and other voice lie detectors respond to indicators of emotion and stress. The fact of the matter is that you can defeat these systems by controlling such responses — leaving high-strung innocents to be branded as liars.

Surely Armageddon cannot be far off when one's own friends will brazenly lie about their very names. Even worse — some of them fooled Truster. True, Truster did appear to expose a few miscreants who were hiding disliked given names, but even this may be inaccurate: I was advised that there is a processing delay of two seconds or more. Since Truster is constantly responding to the flow of speech a sequence of judgments, such as "truth" and "inaccuracy" may flash on the screen forcing the tester to decide which prior word, phrase, or sentence has being labeled.

Something to reflect upon:

A number of people have insisted that voice lie detectors were designed to be used on auto mechanics. To verify this claim, I appeared on the Car Talk show in August and tested the veracity of the auto mechanic/hosts, Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Truster judged them to be more consistently truthful than most of the other subjects in the study.

Judith Markowitz is president of J. Markowitz Consultants, and can be reached at Northwestern University/Evanston Research Park, 1840 North Oak, Evanston, Ill., 60201, or by e-mail at jmarkowitz@pobox.com.

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