LAWYERS and judges use skill and instinct to sense who might be lying in court. Soon they may be able to rely on a computer, too. An AI system trained on false statements is highly accurate at spotting deceptive language in written or spoken testimony. It can also be used to weed out fake online reviews of books, hotels and restaurants. The system is the work of computational linguists Massimo Poesio at the University of Essex in Colchester, UK, and Tommaso Fornaciari at the Center for Mind/Brain sciences in Trento, Italy. It is based on a technique called stylometry, which counts how often certain words appear in a passage. The method is often applied to determine who wrote a piece of text, but software can employ it to pick out deception instead. The strategy is to seek out the overuse of linguistic hedges such as “to the best of my knowledge”, or overzealous expressions such as “I swear to god”.
"But all previous studies had used deceptive texts created in the lab," Poesio says. "What has been missing was a system that could work on real-world lies."
So he and Fornaciari trained a machine learning system by feeding it Italian courtroom depositions and statements by defendants known to have committed perjury. The researchers say it is now nearly 75 per cent accurate at indicating whether a defendant or witness is being deceptive. “We can achieve an accuracy that is way above chance,” says Poesio.
Sam de Silva, chairman of the London-based Law Society’s technology and law committee, says that such a system could act as an aid to a counsel’s “gut feel” about a witness. “There’d be no bar on using it, but it depends how reliable it is and how much it will cost,” he says.
The researchers are now feeding the system online book reviews known to be fake, in order to expose authors who have written fawning reviews of their own works. “We can now assess the likelihood a review is deceptive, again with an accuracy way above chance,” says Poesio, who will present the results at a conference on computational linguistics in Gothenburg, Sweden, next month. — Perjurers and fake reviews train software to spot lies - tech - 07 March 2014 - New Scientist
The season we’re born in can have far-reaching consequences. For instance, Spring babies are more likely than others to develop schizophrenia later in life, whereas Summer babies tend to grow up to be more sensation seeking. There are many more of these so-called season of birth effects. Scientists aren’t sure, but they think such patterns could be due (among other things) to mothers’ and infants’ exposure to viruses over the Winter period, or to the amount of daylight they’re exposed to, either or both of which could influence genetic expression during early development. Now Spiro Pantazatos, a neuroscientist at Columbia University Medical Center, has studied links between season of birth and brain structure in healthy adults. He thinks the association between season of birth and psychiatric and behavioural outcomes later in life could be mediated by genetic factors that affect the growth of the brain.
Those born in the Fall and Winter tended to have more grey matter in a region known as the left superior temporal sulcus (STG), as compared with men born in Spring and Summer. Looking month by month, men born at the end of December tended to have the most grey matter in this region; men born at the end of June tended to have the least.
It’s interesting that Pantazatos found a specific link with this brain region. The amount of grey matter in the superior temporal sulcus – a region that includes the auditory cortex – has previously been linked with schizophrenia, with patients tending to have reduced volume in this area.
The association between STG volume and season of birth may not apply to men only. Making multiple statistical comparisons across the brain carries the risk of discovering associations by chance. Pantazatos was careful to control for this risk. When he used more liberal statistical tests, he also found an association between grey matter volume in superior temporal sulcus in women, but this time the seasonal effect was reversed. Women born in the Summer had more grey matter than those born in Winter. This actually fits with other research showing that season of birth effects can be different for men and women. For example, female Winter babies tend to be less sensation seeking as adults, whereas male Winter babies grow into adults with a penchant for risk.
Pantazatos also performed another kind of analysis. He looked to see if it were possible to predict which season a person was born in, purely from looking at differences in grey matter volume across their brains. This time he found a significant result for women but not men. An algorithm picking up differences across a swathe of brain regions in the frontal cortex, parietal lobe, and cerebellum, was able to categorise a woman’s season of birth with 35 per cent accuracy. Not great, but more than you’d expect based on a guess. — How Your Season of Birth Is Etched in Your Brain - Wired Science
People who speak two or more languages often prefer to use one language over another, depending on the situation. This is especially true when it comes to cursing and insults. It seems that people prefer not to use their native languages to talk smack. Here’s why. In a study published a couple of months ago in PLoS One, two Polish researchers at the University of Warsaw explain that linguists and psychologists have long wondered what causes people to switch back and forth between languages. Apparently, one reason is that people feel more emotionally connected to their native languages. As a result, they’re willing to say things in other languages that they wouldn’t say in their own. The researchers write: Those who have contact with bi- or multilinguals often notice that it is easier for the latter group to express certain content in one language, while other content is more willingly conveyed in the other. What does this preference depend on? It has been noticed and proven that it is mostly emotional topics that cause slipping from one language to another. Kim and Starks name this phenomenon ‘emotion-related language choice’ (ERLC) and define it as a language choice made by a bilingual person, either consciously or subconsciously, which is not conditioned by factors such as the environment (e.g. home/school/playground/workplace/pub…), but lies within their own, subjective preferences.
Apparently, this is because other languages feel “disembodied,” while a native language feels intimate. Topics that would be taboo in the native language don’t feel so upsetting in other languages. Cultural and social norms of politeness — which are often rules we learn as children — are followed much more rigorously in the native language.
It turns out that the main factor triggering the language choice in bilinguals is not necessarily the different emotional power of both languages, but social and cultural norms.
I say this is “contrary to what you might expect” because one might assume that people are more likely to insult another group when they are using their own group’s language. You would think, for example, that a native English speaker might want to insult Spanish-speakers in English. But apparently not. The social norms and taboos over insults are too powerful, and people tend to tone down ethnic insults in their native languages — even if they are willing to go over the top with them in other languages. — Why it’s easier to swear at people in another language
age often precedes an attack and may be the trigger, say the US researchers who trawled medical literature. They identified a dangerous period of about two hours following an outburst when people were at heightened risk. But they say more work is needed to understand the link and find out if stress-busting strategies could avoid such complications.
People who have existing risk factors, such as a history of heart disease, are particularly susceptible, they told the European Heart Journal.
In the two hours immediately after an angry outburst, risk of a heart attack increased nearly five-fold and risk of stroke increased more than three-fold, the data from nine studies and involving thousands of people suggests.
The Harvard School of Public Health researchers say, at a population level, the risk with a single outburst of anger is relatively low - one extra heart attack per 10,000 people per year could be expected among people with low cardiovascular risk who were angry only once a month, increasing to an extra four per 10,000 people with a high cardiovascular risk.
But the risk is cumulative, meaning temper-prone individuals will be at higher risk still.
Five episodes of anger a day would result in around 158 extra heart attacks per 10,000 people with a low cardiovascular risk per year, increasing to about 657 extra heart attacks per 10,000 among those with a high cardiovascular risk, Dr Elizabeth Mostofsky and colleagues calculate. — BBC News - Angry people ‘risking heart attacks’