Seeing through the face of deception


We have developed a high-definition
thermal-imaging technique that can
detect attempted deceit by recording
the thermal patterns from people’s faces.
This technique has an accuracy comparable
to that of polygraph examination by experts
and has potential for application in remote
and rapid security screening, without the
need for skilled staff or physical contact.
There is an urgent need to devise technologies
that can be used for automated,
high-throughput screening to identify individuals
intending to perform acts of terrorism.
At present, practicalities dictate that we
rely on subjective assessment of responses to
brief questions such as “Did you pack your
own bags?” and “Why are you entering this

Although polygraph examinations, which
have high precision when applied by
experts1, are good at identifying liars, they
are impracticable for mass screening because
skilled operators are needed, subjects have to
be attached to instrumentation for several
minutes, data analysis is time-consuming
and the interpretation of data is delayed.

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Ioannis Pavlidis, Norman L. Eberhardt, James A. Levine