tional states and evaluate the effectiveness of training techniques or to determine the readiness of combat units.

The vast majority of neuroscientific research has been conducted at the group, or aggregate, level rather than at the individual level, and this trend is likely to continue. To achieve sophisticated and highly sensitive neurophysiological assessment of psychological states at the individual level, many significant challenges must be overcome. At a minimum, the neurophysiological indicators will probably have to be individually “tuned” to each user, given the issues of individual variability and plasticity described below.

To accurately assess psychological states using neurophysiological measures, basic neurophysiological work needs to be accomplished over the next two decades. The committee identified and discussed a nonexhaustive list of issues that need to be addressed and questions that need to be answered. These included the nature of psychological states compared to “mind reading,” the nature of neurophysiological and neural activity, and barriers to identification of mental states and intentions.

An important qualification about the parameters necessary for determining psychological state became apparent during the committee’s deliberations—the end use of information about the inferred psychological state. Because technology to infer a psychological state or intention could be put to a broad range of alternative uses, it is important to recognize that acceptable levels of error depend on the differential consequences of a false positive or a missed identification. The technology being applied to determine psychological state could even be derived from an incomplete model of brain function as long as it had sufficient predictive power to accomplish the desired goal. For instance, one would not need a complete model of brain function to construct a brain–computer interface that could improve the self-piloting capabilities of unmanned air vehicles. But the tolerance for error will be much less if a technology is used to determine whether an individual is lying about an act of treason, because the consequences of an error will be greater.

The committee believes that it is critical to fully understand the relationship between neurophysiological markers and actual mental states when the application is the detection of deception.

Mind Reading and Psychological States

It has proven difficult since the beginning of modern psychology 150 years ago to achieve agreement, even among psychologists and other behavioral scientists, on explicit definitions of psychological constructs. Such agreement is important because most psychological constructs bear labels borrowed from common language. Dictionary meanings and usage tempt many scientists to assume that they know the scientific definition of a psychological construct without consulting the scientific literature, where such constructs are explicitly defined.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement