How different would the world be if we knew exactly what our lovers, friends and adversaries were thinking?
The answer may not be that far away.
Researchers at CIMCYC (The Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre), based at the University of Granada in Spain, have developed a machine that uses infrared cameras to make an extensive heatmap of a person’s body.
They say this not only provides enough information to tell if someone is lying, but also whether they’re in love, whether they’re anxious or depressed, and even if they like—or love—a song they’re listening to.
As outlined by Emilio Gómez Milán, a professor of experimental psychology at the university, the machine uses infrared cameras to develop a “tri factorial lying detection model.”
This focuses on the three elements of a lie: the mental effort needed to create and adapt a lie; the triggering of the sympathetic nervous system (also known as fight or flight); and an accompanying desire to convince a listener with your web of untruths.
“What’s interesting is that the mental effort activates the frontal lobe—the brain’s control base, which makes decisions.” Milán writes in The Conversation. “And this is associated with a rise in temperature in the front left and right of the faces. Something the infrared cameras detect.”
Similarly, the cameras can pick out the so-called Pinocchio effect, in which the tip of the nose temperature rises when lying, and the more obvious flushing of cheeks when people get embarrassed or ashamed.
“If a person in an interrogation is asked a question and shows at least two of the three heat effects, we conclude that they are lying.”
The (thermal) language of love
The University of Granada professor does a similar breakdown for love, which he says can be distilled into passion, intimacy and social commitment. Confusingly, passion reportedly triggers an increase in temperature in the face, hands and chest, while intimacy has the opposite effect: a cooling in the same places. Commitment, they found, produces a slight reduction in temperature in the hands.
With these measures in place, Milán and his team found that true love is capable of limiting pain and even helping the body heal more quickly. Subjects in love were able to increase heat recuperation after putting a hand in zero degree water for two minutes.
The researchers set out myriad other uses for the camera:
- To see if someone is anxious or depressed
- To see if they like or love a song
- To tell if someone feels guilt or frustration
- To tell if a person is being abused or has suffered PTSD
- To see if people are extroverted, their level of empathy, and how impulsive they are
- To assess how particular illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, affect individuals
There are also suggestions that the technology could be used to see whether people affiliate with particular groups or are sympathetic to criminal behaviour. As with all technologies, there’s a need for oversight and limits—imagine if such capabilities were somehow included into front-facing mobile phone cameras to conduct spot checks on the population…
Robert Scott Lazar