Constructing the Organ of Deceit: The Rhetoric of fMRI and Brain Fingerprinting in Post-9/11 America

Science, Technology, and Human Values 34 (3):365-392 (2009)
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Functional magnetic resonance imaging and the electroencephalography -based technology of Brain Fingerprinting have been hailed as the next, best technologies for lie detection in America, particularly in the context of post-9/11 anxiety. In scientific journals and the popular press, each has been juxtaposed and deemed superior to traditional polygraphy, which measures changes in the autonomic nervous system and correlates these fluctuations with emotions such as anxiety, fear, and guilt. The author contends that the juxtaposition of polygraphy and brain-based detection is a rhetorical strategy that foregrounds the corrective advantage of brain-based techniques, creates an artificial rupture between contiguous technologies, and ignores the shared assumptions foundational to fMRI, EEG, and two older ``truth telling'' technologies: polygraphy and fingerprinting. Far from describing the brain and its functions, fMRI and Brain Fingerprinting produce models of the brain that reinforce social notions of deception, truth, and deviance.



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