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Skilled at Deception

Skilled at Deception

Our blogs, as you know, usually concern the False Claims Act, or the SEC and IRS whistleblower programs.  Today, a slight deviation back into the realm of the courtroom.  An article caught my eye, suggesting that humans, even trained humans, are highly inefficient at reading physical cues in the facial expressions of other people.  Computers, in turns out, when told what to look for, beat us hands down.  But maybe its not that people are bad at reading physical cues, but very skilled at deception.

I wrote the following on the paper’s comment board:

As a trial lawyer and former prosecutor, I have long been fascinated (and troubled) by the extent of mistakes that happen in the criminal justice system. Two things have stood out for me: 1) eyewitness identifications that are inaccurate and unreliable and 2) poor judgment by investigators, prosecutors, and jurors in determining when a witness is lying.

We think we are good at making those determinations, but as the article suggests, we are not. We may believe what we think we saw but we are often wrong. And we as a species are so good at deception that decision-makers in the criminal justice system end up relying on their gut feelings, way too imprecise to be accurate in a system that calls for “beyond a reasonable doubt” evidence. I’ve seen more than a few witnesses lie persuasively.

This article helps explain how that can happen. I don’t particularly welcome the advent of computers making credibility determinations, but bad outcomes in criminal cases aren’t so great either.”

There are structural reasons why there is so much fraud in our society–it’s pretty easy to do, at least for awhile.  But maybe there’s an even more basic explanation answers the question.  People are pretty darned good at deceiving one another!

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