Implications of the Findings for Lie Detection in Legal Settings

The research findings presented in this chapter reveal that people are not good enough in verbal and non-verbal truth and lie detection to justify their assessments being used as evidence in criminal courts where the standard of proof is 'beyond reasonable doubt'. Experts who currently present such assessments in court will probably challenge this conclusion and will point out that the research on which this conclusion has been based lacks ecological validity. In other words, they will say: 'We simply do not know how accurate these assessments are.' Although I agree to some extent with their point of view, I believe that the uncertainty about their accuracy does not justify the use of such truth and lie detection methods in courts. If experts nevertheless present their outcomes in criminal courts, then they should at least point out the limitations of the method they use, and the uncertainty about its accuracy. However, it is not all pessimistic. First, several promising suggestions have been made to improve lie and truth detection accuracy. More research is needed to further develop these new methods and to test their effectiveness. Second, research has convincingly demonstrated that people are able to detect truths and lies above the level of chance by utilising lie detection methods (especially verbal lie detection methods). It means that those methods could be used in the criminal justice system, for example, as an additional piece of evidence in criminal courts (as long as more substantial evidence is presented as well), or as a tool in police investigations to eliminate potential suspects, to check the truthfulness of informants, or to examine contradictory statements of victims, witnesses and suspects in the same case. It might also be used as a piece of evidence in civil courts where the standard of proof is 'on a balance of probabilities'.

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