Charlantry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously


  • Anders Eriksson Gothenburg University
  • Francisco Lacerda Stockholm University





NOTE FROM PUBLISHER December 4 2008 In the December 2007 Edition of the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, an article was published which made serious allegations concerning Mr Amir Liberman and Nemesysco Limited. We have received complaints from Mr Liberman and Nemesysco Limited about the content of this article and particularly that the allegations made against them in it were highly defamatory, containing many inaccuracies and misleading statements. In addition, they complain that it was prepared without reference to them and without giving them an opportunity to comment upon it. The Journal accepts that Mr Liberman and Nemesysco Limited were not asked to assist in the preparation of the article and further that they were not invited to comment on the content of the article prior to its publication where, in view of the content of the article, it would have been appropriate to invite them to do so. We have agreed to publish a letter from Mr Liberman and Nemesysco Limited setting out their objections to the article in more detail in a future issue of the journal. The article will no longer be made available in electronic form through the Equinox website. Janet Joyce Managing Director ABSTRACT A lie detector which can reveal lie and deception in some automatic and perfectly reliable way is an old idea we have often met with in science fiction books and comic strips. This is all very well. It is when machines claimed to be lie detectors appear in the context of criminal investigations or security applications that we need to be concerned. In the present paper we will describe two types of “deception” or “stress detectors" (euphemisms to refer to what quite clearly is known as “lie detectors”). Both types of detection are claimed to be based on voice analysis but we found no scientific evidence to support the manufacturers’ claims. Indeed, our review of scientific studies will show that these machines perform at chance level when tested for reliability. Given such results and the absence of scientific support for the underlying principles it is justified to view the use of these machines as charlatanry and we argue that there are serious ethical and security reasons to demand that responsible authorities and institutions should not get involved in such practices.

Author Biographies

Anders Eriksson, Gothenburg University

Anders Eriksson is professor of phonetics at the Department of Linguistics, Gothenburg University. He received his M.Sc. in solid state physics from Gothenburg University in 1965 and worked as a teacher of physics and mathematics for many years before turning his attention to linguistics. In the late eighties he worked on speech synthesis development at Swedish Telecom. He received his Ph.D. in general linguistics from Gothenburg University in 1991. After working at the departments of linguistics, first at Umeå University and later Stockholm University he joined the Linguistics Department in Gothenburg in 2001. His scientific work has focused on speech rhythm, speech perception, particularly in the area of paralinguistic phonetics, and lately forensic phonetics.

Francisco Lacerda, Stockholm University

Francisco Lacerda is professor of Phonetics at the Department of Linguistics, Stockholm University



How to Cite

Eriksson, A., & Lacerda, F. (2008). Charlantry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 14(2), 169–193.