Lie detectors?

James Purnell (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions), is talking about bringing lie-detectors in to help find people who are lying in order to get benefits.

Problem is that lie detectors don’t work (last item). They tend to give many false positives, which means more work for people to do to investigate claimants (and despite the idea that the benefits agency won’t take a failed test as evidence, the suspicion will likely be there for some time) but they can also be beaten by people who look up a few ways to do it. More info here.

EDIT 5 Dec 15:33 – I saw a very interesting (and far more detailed) analysis from Unity today. Essentially he’s saying that lie detectors can ‘work’, but for detecting stress, rather than for detecting lies (honest people can be stressed under questioning, and liars can be ice-cold)

6 Responses to “Lie detectors?”

  1. Gordon Seekings Says:

    What did you expect from an MP who has been promoted to a post above his ability?

  2. Danivon Says:

    No need to get personal, Gordon. I think he’s wrong on this, but that doesn’t necessarily imply inability to do his job.

    Last year he was named ‘Consumer Champion of the Year’ for his efforts on pensions. I think that’s an indication of the regard outside politics for his work.

  3. Gordon Seekings Says:


    It took you how long to search out the links on lie detectors?

    James Purnell has an army of civil servants in his department so, either they are seriously misleading him on this and he doesn’t know it; or it’s his own idea and he has not researched it, as he should have done; or he knows it’s a crock and still goes ahead with it.

    Either way it shows somebody not in command of his brief – no matter what may have been said about him on another issue. That to my way of thinking is somebody working above his ability. Not a personal attack just a statement of what to me is obvious.

  4. Danivon Says:

    I didn’t search for them cold, as I’ve been a fan of Randi’s for some time and have already heard of so I knew what I was looking for.

    Of course, there are plenty of people who are convinced that lie detectors do work, and the industry probably can come up with briefing material to back it up.

    btw – did you see Cameron today? The tories want an election but can’t tell us what they’d do if they won it (I note that your lot do have alternative ideas).

  5. Gordon Seekings Says:

    Of course my lot have (very good) alternative ideas. We’ve got Vince Cable and the Tories have got who….?

    I also find it difficult to take the present Chancellor seriously. Anybody who get’s interviewed by Paxo on Newsnight and the conversation starts “Now Darling, what seems to be the problem….” leaves I suspect 95% of the viewing public with a sense of humour like mine rolling in the isles thinking of Black Adder….. :-))

  6. Disappointed Jesus Says:

    So in the Freud/Purnell universe ALL benefit claimants are assumed to be guilty unless proved innocent by a piece of dodgy technology?!

    Purnell has lost it hasn’t he?

    If I had predicted this would be pending Labour Party policy back in 1997, or even a year ago, you would all have thought I was mad.

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