Volume 32, Issue 2 (March 1987)
Voice Stress Evaluators and Lie Detection
Proponents of vocal stress analysis systems argue that they are able to detect spoken deception by analysis of “stress” in the voice signal. Presumably, they do so by examining traces made by laryngeal microtremors which, they claim (1) exist in the voice, (2) are associated with stress, and (3) ultimately are associated with lying. However, most research that seeks to identify the relationships between microtremors and laryngeal function has produced negative results, and data on the ability of voice analyzers to detect stress from speech—or to identify spoken deception—have been negative or “mixed” in nature. Since perspectives based on available results leave a number of questions unanswered, a series of experiments has been undertaken. The first was focused on the basic acoustic/temporal correlates of stress in voice (the subject of an earlier report), the second on examination of stress by commercial voice analyzers, and the third on the detection of relatively high-risk lies by this same type of voice analysis procedure. It was found that correct stress/nonstress identifications occurred only at chance levels; the lie/nonlie identification scores were quite similar with professional “examiners” performing at about the same level of accuracy as other auditors. The following review is divided into two parts: a history of the controversy and a presentation of the two cited experiments.