This popular police "mindreading" technique is bullshit — but the things that cops say about it are somehow even worse.

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/01/08/this-popular-police-mindread.html

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Or you’re coming from the first-principles position of Alfred Whitehead and Bertrand Russell in their Principia Mathematica, which takes several hundred pages to prove that 1 + 1 = 2.

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$5000 to train 26 people. That looks like a good deal.
One of the techniques to reduce scrutiny of scams is to keep the cost below a threshold that triggers a review. That certainly seems to be the case here.

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“You might use salt in one dish, in the next you might use saliva. If the next dish is for a cop, I mean. Otherwise stick to salt.”

I feel like this would be a fun tool to use against them in court. Put them on the stands then bust this out and ask them questions about whether they falsified evidence. From the stats, it sounds like even if they didn’t, half the time it will conclude they did.

Unless taking the course is like some form of immunization, and they can no longer fall victim to its bullshit.

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In school a professor told us about a study done to determine whether law enforcement officers were actually any better at detecting liars than the average person (since so many of them claim to be). According to her the only law enforcement agency that scored better than average in a statistically significant way at detecting liars was the Secret Service.

Unfortunately, she did not provide a citation for this study so it’s nothing more than a half-remembered anecdote from a decade ago.

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I have the sneaking suspicion that anyone who would answer a question about whether a technique of writing analysis is affected by the target’s level of language skill with a digression about arithmetic could not be saved from their dire conceptual confusion by the amount of number theory they are capable of grasping; and cannot grasp enough number theory to dispel their conceptual confusion.

On the plus side, odds are also good that they possess a well-rounded education; if only in the sense of being equally ignorant across the board.

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It would be fascinating(albeit ultimately irrelevant to the fact that people need to stop using this nonsense yesterday) to know if Sapir was always a crank with a talent for self promotion; or whether this is one of those cases where someone with genuine expertise in one area starts going off the deep end elsewhere when their abilities turn against them.

Most specifically, I’m thinking of the tendency of the mathematically inclined to occasionally drift off into stark raving numerology(in his case the insistence that every text has an occult meaning that can be discerned by application of the appropriate algorithm has very much that flavor; and using your exotic analysis technique on the book of genesis doesn’t exactly move you further from the genre).

The fact that his web presence looks like what would happen if the TimeCube guy decided to try minimalism also has more of a nuts smell to it than a slick con man one. It would take about 10 minutes and some stolen stock art to whip together a site that looks a lot more tacticool and a lot less circa 1995; but apparently that isn’t a priority.

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Lock me up. Unless it’s something that I’m being precise about, I’m going to vary my words because I have a vocabulary: man, male, guy…

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Went to the LSI Labs website, felt like time travel back to 1997. They have a screenshot of it in the ProPublica article if you don’t want to go there directly and feel all AOL-like.

And you gotta see Comey’s reply. If that’s for real, the guy’s got a sense of humor, I had had to read it twice then did LOL IRL.

Oh, and the company is reportedly out of Arizona. Go figure.

So it has the same pseudoscientific trappings of the stupid handwriting analysis thing from decades ago (“the angle of his descenders indicates aggression”), with the same degree of accuracy as a polygraph, i.e., none. What it does have going for it is a methodical way to get an answer that otherwise would require actual police work, which is super hard, you guys.

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That response was seriously the most humanizing and empathetic thing I’ve ever seen come out of Comey. Otherwise, I liken how to a character in a Shakespearean comedy whose tragic flaw is his unfailing commitment to Status Quo Centrism.

  • HE WAS STARING AT ME
  • HE WAS AVOIDING EYE CONTACT

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The whole criminal justice system is riddled with pseudoscience. Handwriting analysis, bullet/gun matching, blood spatter analysis, burn pattern analysis, sketch artistry, drug sniffing dogs, criminal personality profiling, exit wound analysis, typewriter identification, polygraphs (the latter not admissible in court, at least) and the grand poobah of them all- eyewitness testimony. Just to name a few. All of these fail spectacularly when double-blind tested. Even fingerprint matching is a bit iffy.

One of the big reasons DNA analysis was a nuclear bomb on the whole system was that it was among the first real science to actually hit criminal justice.

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Even handwriting comparison (did person X write both these things) fails when properly double-blind tested. A lot more people write a lot more similarly than everyone thinks.

Even when you get away from the obvious things like these:

Much police work is essentially pseudoscience.

In science, the idea is to begin with an unbiased collection of data, and to examine it impartially. A priori hypothesising is dangerous; experimental design is ideally constructed to test assumptions, not confirm them.

Police, OTOH, work the other way. They start with a guess as to what might have happened and then collect or manufacture evidence to confirm their assumptions.

The reason why scientists don’t work like police is because we know from experience that doing it like that is a recipe for maximising your false positive error rates.

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They use this claptrap to make their lives easier. For one thing, it lets them take advantage of the “CSI effect”. They know if the case comes to a tries, when they throw scientific-sounding jargon at juries a lot of those people will buy it. Some of the jury people are dim, and some know it’s claptrap but they don’t have the guts to say so because they’re in a hurry to get done and go home and they don’t want to cause a controversy that would extend the deliberations.

Also, the cops think this garbage tool gives them a way to dodge responsibility. With this, they don’t have to say “In my opinion” or “I decided” or “I believed”. They just say “the tool says so”. They think that absolves them of any moral burden in what happens next. This kind of hokum is very convenient for the liars and racists and moral cowards who infest the police forces of this country.

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