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Lie detection put to the test
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-10 00:11

People could be able to put their spouse or business partner through a lie detector test for the first time in China, if a new scheme is approved.

The Guangzhou Psychiatric Hospital is seeking the green light to offer lie detection test services to the public. Use of the technique has never gone beyond expert testimony for law enforcement before.

"The Guangzhou Brain Hospital, or Guangzhou Psychiatric Hospital, is applying to judicial departments for approval. Everything is tentative at this stage," Chen Ruizhen, a specialist in expert testimony at the hospital, told China Daily.

But she hoped the lie detector would be available to the public this year.

"The degree of accuracy of the machine can reach 99 per cent,'' said Wang Junjie, a doctor at the hospital in charge of lie detection.

According to Wang, the results also depend on the questions asked and his analysis of the data shown by the machine.

As part of the service, an expert designs a set of questions for the person who undergoes the test.

Every question is asked three times. The test is expected to cost over 200 yuan (US$24) for every question.

Every time the test subject answers a question, the slight change to his or her skin, heart and pulse will be recorded as data and displayed by the machine.

With the data, the expert is able to discover whether the person is lying, Wang said.

Chen Ruizhen hopes the technique will be soon available for the public because lies cause many disputes in family and business affairs.

She also believes there would be a vast range of uses for the test.

So far it is limited to use in expert testimony.

Some experts believe public use of a lie detection service would create many problems.

"First of all, it must confront the problems of law. Is it legal to test another's thinking and intrude on their privacy?'' said Xiao Bin, the chief of the School of Government under Zhongshan University.

Chen said the test must be taken voluntarily. The hospital would not be involved in legal disputes after the test.

Lie detection services are still new to most Chinese. Customers may include those who are curious about the technique and want to sit the test.

Chen emphasized that the hospital will offer the service to customers only if both parties to the dispute agree.

Professor Xiao said the technique would create a crisis in trust and result in tensions in relationships.

"It is a dangerous trend in society. It will make things more complicated," he said.

But hospital authorities said the proposal was not yet approved. And they refused to comment and make predictions about the market for the service or its implications.

Reactions to the proposed lie detection test were mixed on the street.

"I would not spend so much money to ask my wife to take the test, even though we are in dispute," a man surnamed Du said, when asked about the service.

Others interviewed said that while the test might be helpful to some sections of society, they personally would not take the test.

Because the results of a lie detection test can be used in court, they said its use was appropriate in business disputes or criminal case, but not in personal affairs.

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