Voice risk analysis

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The Voice Risk Analysis or VRA, also called Voice Stress Analysis (VSA), is marketed in the UK as a lie detection technology developed by Digilog. It is said to work by detecting the changes in the voice of the subject when he is lying.

The developers maintain VRA technology works by measuring slight, inaudible fluctuations in the human voice that indicate when a speaker delivers words under stress and reportedly, when that stress is generated by an attempt to deceive. The caller's voice patterns are analysed by computer and thereafter assessed a high or low risk of deception. The fundamental assumption in voice risk analysis holds that individuals engaged in lying experience added stress. Increased risk of detection and a greater potential payoff serve only to add to the degree of stress experienced. Aside from other physiological responses, particular increases in voice pitch, frequency and intensity are said by the developers to be indicative of deception.

Marketed to customer contact/call centres, the promise of a lie detection product has particular appeal to insurance claim handlers and government agencies involved in processing welfare benefit claims. As with the polygraph, academics argue that there is no scientific basis to support the manufacturer’s claims.[1]

Adoption by UK Government & Corporate Clients[edit]

  • Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton announces introduction of voice-risk analysis software[2]
  • From the Guardian Newspaper: ″Tory-controlled Derbyshire Dales said it had taken part in a county-wide review of council tax in 2011 that had used the technology – a contract worth £280,000 to Capita.″[3]
  • Digilog's website lists corporate clients drawn from the insurance and recruitment sectors.[4]

Questionable Reliability[edit]

Along with advocates of polygraph testing, proponents of the technology equate certain changes in physiological responses to deception. As with any conclusion not supported by the premises, and if it is accepted that an altered physiological state is in-fact being detected, other explanations for physiological arousal are excluded. Similarly heightened arousal is commonly encountered in individuals experiencing or suffering from situational anxiety, shock, an anxiety disorder, a bipolar disorder, fear and confusion. Voice risk analysis will be unable to determine if any changes detected are, as is maintained, an outworking of an attempt to deceive or as a result of some of the reasons discussed. Research by Anders Eriksson and Francesco Lacerda concludes that this technology is "at the astrology end of the spectrum" in terms of its science.[5]

The Guardian newspaper reported in 2009 that the UK Department for Work and Pensions[6] analysis of data from trials conducted between May 2007 and July 2008 in various agencies shows accuracy rates no better than chance.[7] Following a Freedom of Information request by the trade union financed campaign body False Economy The Guardian revisited the story in 2014.[8]

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