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To date, all fMRI lie detection studies have utilized small sample sizes with individuals who were asked to lie about very concrete facts such as the type of card they were holding. This is by no means a simulation of reality,one must account for different factors such as age, mental state, and, as Seelig pointed out, how good a liar one is. Pathological liars do exist, and these people may be so adept at suppressing the truth- our emotional baseline as postulated by Langleben- that they may never be caught. Whatever the degree of deception, the anxiety a suspect will face in a real-life detection situation is entirely absent from a lab setting. Furthermore, the fMRI does not account for substance abuse (prevalent amongst criminals), which can greatly alter BOLD levels. Given all these constraints, in order for the fMRI to have any credibility in a court, a consensus of scientists agreed that more testing is necessary, with larger subject groups and in ecologically valid circumstances in order to isolate these neurological markers of deception on a single-subject basis.
Where does this leave us in our search for the science behind lying? The need for transparency has intensified as we as a human race struggle to find security in the fragile and unpredictable economic, social and political constructions. An integral part of finding security is co-opting an identity that is morally and culturally acceptable. Some believe that an individual integrates both social and biological circumstances in constructing this identity. This co-opting of identities and categories is both bottom up (by a single individual) and top down (by a governing body). Detecting deception exemplifies this top down categorization, where designated figures of society- governments, lawmakers, security agencies, and corporations- are put in place to maintain the dynamics and identities of the consisting population. The fMRI lie detector may facilitate this process, but only to a certain extent. The scientists and the aforementioned social authorities must pose the question of how transparent the mind really is. Are we looking to create biological categories of "liars" and "truth tellers"? Moreover, is it ethically acceptable to create these types of stringent categories? The answers to these questions will determine the trajectory of the fMRI in lie detection, and more importantly, whether we will ever find a scientific explanation to an elusive human behavior that enmeshes us in a web of secrets, facts, forgotten memories and fantasy: Deception.
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